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New front opens in eastern Congo, UN reports

Video by Arnaud ZAJTMAN

Text by AFP

Latest update : 2008-11-10

Despite reports that fighting between rebels and pro-government forces in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo had eased early on Sunday, a new front has reportedly opened up in the North Kivu and South Kivu provinces.

Fighting between rebels and pro-government forces in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo opened up on a new front Sunday on the borders of the two provinces of Nord-Kivu and Sud-Kivu, UN officials said.
The clashes lasted for six hours, starting before dawn and prompting the flight of thousands of people, the United Nations said.
They took place at Ngungu, some 60 kilometres (35 miles) west of Goma, the provincial capital of Nord-Kivu, which is on the border with Sud-Kivu province.
The fighting that has erupted since August between rebel and pro-government forces, in violation of a January ceasefire, had so far been limited to Nord-Kivu.
Ngungu was the scene of clashes six weeks ago and is on the southwestern edge of the territory controlled by the rebels of the CNDP, led by renegade general Laurent Nkunda.
In June 2004 Nkunda's forces left their stronghold in Nord-Kivu to make an incursion into Sud-Kivu and briefly seized the provincial capital Bukavu.
Although early reports said the rebels clashed with government forces (FARDC) it was later reported that the FARDC did not take part and the combats involved the rebels and two other local armed groups.
The local FARDC commander confirmed reports of the fighting but Bertrand Bisima, spokesman for the rebels, said he did not know of it.
Fighting began at about 5:00 am (0300 GMT) and "ended towards 11:00 am (0900 GMT)" after United Nations mission in Congo (MONUC) mediation which negotiated an end to the violence, UN spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jean-Paul Dietrich said in Kinshasa.
At a regional summit in Johannesburg Angola denied reports it had deployed troops to Congo.
On Saturday, a UN peacekeeping officer near the front line in the conflict who requested anonymity had told AFP that Angolan troops had been seen the previous day fighting beside government forces against the rebels.
But the source with the Angolan delegation told AFP Sunday: "There are no Angolan troops in the DRC."
Dietrich had earlier denied there were foreign troops in the country, but did say there was "military cooperation" between Congo and Angola.
"There are perhaps Angolan (military) instructors in country," he said Saturday.
Sunday's six-hour flare-up of fighting in Ngungu involved CNDP rebels on one side and pro-government Mai-Mai militia and Hutu rebels of the FDLR, who include some of those responsible for the 1994 genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda, on the other, said Dietrich.
Earlier he had reported that government forces (FARDC) had taken part but now said no Congolese regular troops had been involved.
Elsewhere in Nord-Kivu province, Kibati, to the north of Goma, was quiet for the second day running, after clashes Friday. A buffer zone of about a kilometre (1,100 yards) separated the two sides.
On Saturday the Mai-Mai were reported by the UN to have recaptured Kinyandoni.
There was a brief exchange of rockets Sunday morning near Kiwanja, 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of Goma, the UN said.
The rebels accused the FARDC of trying to deter people returning to their homes without having contact with troops on the ground.
The war in eastern Congo has created a humanitarian catastrophe, with at least 250,000 people forced to flee their homes by the end of August. The continuing violence has hampered efforts to deliver aid to them.
South African President Kgalema Motlanthe backed calls Sunday for a stronger mandate for UN peacekeepers to deter the violence.
"We call for an immediate ceasefire to allow humanitarian assistance to the displaced people," he added, speaking at the start of the regional summit.
"We firmly believe that there is no military solution to the problem," Motlanthe said.
Pope Benedict XVI added his voice to the calls for peace, condemning the "bloody clashes" and "atrocities" committed in Congo and called for a return to peace, during his weekly Angelus prayer.

Date created : 2008-11-09