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UN troops left alone as rebels march on Goma

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2008-10-29

As thousands of civilians fled fighting in eastern Congo, the UN Security Council rejected calls to beef up the UN peacekeeping mission in the country. Meanwhile, rebels loyal to General Laurent Nkunda advanced on the key city of Goma.

FRANCE 24 correspondent Arnaud Zajtman describes the hardships facing the Congo's north-eastern population.

 

The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s regular army started to flee Goma as Laurent Nkunda's CNDP rebel group advanced towards the country's eastern capital on Wednesday. The army thus leaves the UN's MONUC peacekeeping troops on the frontline.

 

"The government has refused to hold direct talks with a rebel leader, said FRANCE 24's DRC correspondent Arnaud Zatjman, speaking from Brussels. Now Mr NKunda says that he is about to capture the eastern capital Goma and it seems that he has the strength to do so."

 

The MONUC said that some DRC soldiers turned against its troops during their retreat. The UN has evacuated its civilian staff from Goma, but the peacekeepers should remain in place.

 

On Tuesday, the UN Security Council rejected calls for the deployment of extra forces to bolster the embattled contingent of 17,000 MONUC forces operating in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Instead, the council issued a statement condemning the ongoing violence gripping the east of the country.

 
Border incidents
 
Border incidents have accompanied the advance of the rebels. The DRC's military accuses neighbouring Rwanda of supporting the CNDP, led by the renegade ethnic Tutsi leader Laurent Nkunda .
 
"Rwanda denies supporting Mr Nkunda and his men; however, they are well equipped, well armed and witnesses in the area claim that they have seen some movements from Rwanda into eastern Congo", Arnaud Zatjman said.
 

MONUC faces criticism

 

The local population has accused the MONUC force of failing to prevent the advance of rebels on the regional capital Goma.

 

MONUC chief Alan Doss, speaking from the United Nations in New York, said everything was being done to hold the rebels back, but appealed for more direct support on the ground.

 

“We simply cannot have a soldier behind every tree and in every field and on every road and in every market,” he said. “It’s impossible. The situation is difficult.”

 

He added: “We will do whatever is necessary to defend the city (Goma) and prevent a humanitarian disaster.”

 

Alain Le Roy, head of UN peacekeeping operations in the DRC, detailed the MONUC's urgent needs: “We need additional capacities for our troops, for the Monuc – we speak of special forces, battalions, aviation”, he told FRANCE 24.
 

Louis Michel, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, dismissed calls for an escalation of the military presence led by European countries.

 

He told France 24: “We are on the side of the DRC, but I do not believe in the military option. By taking the diplomatic and political option we will be able to sort this conflict out in the long term.”

 

More than 30,000 displaced people

 

Meanwhile the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate, with more than 30,000 displaced people arriving at Kibati, a camp 10 kilometres north of Goma.

 

Mohammed Touré of the UNHCR called for an immediate increase in humanitarian aid for the many thousands of displaced people fleeing the violence in Goma.

 

He said: “We need more shelter and more food. These people who have arrived are in a dire situation. They have left everything behind.”

 

Date created : 2008-10-29

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