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Peace summit opens amid chaotic violence

Video by Arnaud ZAJTMAN , Marlène RABAUD

Text by AFP

Latest update : 2008-11-07

An emergency peace summit embarks in Nairobi to discuss the RDC, where earlier in the day rebels loyal to renegade Tutsi general Laurent Nkunda killed at least 20 civilians in the Congolese town of Kiwanja.

 

 

Read our special report on the conflict in North Kivu


 

Read our report about the world leaders convening to find a peaceful solution

 
The crisis in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is at a critical juncture and risks engulfing the entire region, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Friday at an emergency summit in Nairobi.
   
The UN chief urged decisive action to stop fighting pitting Laurent Nkunda's rebel National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) and pro-government forces, even as fresh clashes erupted in Nord-Kivu.
   
"The recent military offensives by the CNDP have radically compounded the situation, led to severe humanitarian consequences and thrust the eastern DRC once more into a phase of heightened crisis. This crisis could engulf the broader sub-region," he said.
   
"As leaders of Africa, you have a historic responsibility, it is a critical moment for the Great Lakes region, and for Africa as a whole. We must put the cycle of violence behind us," he added, addressing regional heads of state.

 

Civilians executed in Kiwanja

 

In the eastern Congolese town of Kiwanja, villagers were mourning the dead on Thursday after rebels led by General Nkunda fought a counter-offensive by the pro-government Mai-Mai militia.

 

FRANCE 24’s correspondent in DR Congo, Arnaud Zajtman, counted 20 bodies as he visited the small deserted village after the fighting. Residents of Kiwanja however say more than 50 were killed and accuse the rebel forces of executing civilians following the fighting on Wednesday. Gunshot wounds on the bodies indicate the victims didn’t die in combat.

 

“Most dead bodies were men who could be fighters, but people in the town say they were farmers and were killed after the fighting had stopped,” says Zajtman.

 

A resident who lost her husband says the attackers forced their way into her house. “My husband] didn't want to open the door but they forced their way into our house and demanded money,” she says, before adding “my husband gave them some money and then they killed him.”

 

The Kiwanja residents are farmers and say they were unarmed and unaccompanied by government militia.

 

“It's the CNDP [rebel forces of the National Congress for the Defence of the People] who did this,” says another resident. “I was here, my mother was preparing dinner in the kitchen and they went in and killed her.”

 

Nkunda's rebels blocked the path of government forces and drove them away before turning on the local people, says Zajtman.

 

The UN mission in the DR Congo says it is “extremely worried” about reports on “serious abuses against civilians, including arbitrary executions” committed by rebels in Kiwanja. However, the UN was unable to prevent the killings.

 

According to Zajtman, the Kiwanja massacre also has an “ethnic” dimension. “Some of the Mai-Mai who briefly took hold of Kiwanja, were Hutu - like the population of the Kiwanja. So when the Tutsi soldiers of Nkunda recaptured the town, they turned on the Hutu villagers because they wanted to take revenge.”

 

The fighting in Kiwanja was the first since Nkunda called for a ceasefire on October 29. After beating back the DR Congo army in North Kivu, the rebel fighters positioned themselves 15 kilometres outside the regional capital of Goma.

 

Date created : 2008-11-07

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