DR Congo

Ban appoints envoy as UN aid convoy reaches rebel-held town in DR Congo

 A United Nations aid convoy has reached one of the major rebel-held towns in the far east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), providing urgent supplies to civilians trapped amid the fighting in the region, as United Nations officials led by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon continue efforts to broker a solution to the conflict.

Mr. Ban told reporters today that he has appointed Olusegun Obasanjo, the former Nigerian president, to serve as his Special Envoy on the issue and to work with leaders in the region and the broader international community to end the crisis.

The Secretary-General also said he is willing to travel anywhere to meet DRC President Joseph Kabila and Paul Kagame, President of neighbouring Rwanda, later this week for talks aimed at defusing ethnic tensions in the eastern DRC, a region that has remained highly volatile since the official end of the Congolese civil war early this decade.

"Though they have not yet sat down face-to-face, Presidents Kagame and Kabila have begun a direct dialogue, along with their high-level technical teams," said Mr. Ban, who has spoken by telephone with both leaders and dozens of other senior officials in recent days.

"This is a promising development. I urge again all parties to stick to the current ceasefire and devote their best efforts to this nascent political process."

Deadly fighting in recent months across North Kivu province has forced an estimated 250,000 people to flee their homes, joining hundreds of thousands of other internally displaced persons (IDPs), and the clashes have even threatened Goma, the provincial capital and home to about 700,000 people.

The UN aid convoy that reached Rutshuru, a town in North Kivu, carried first aid and basic medicines for local health-care centres as well as equipment to re-establish clean water supplies, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported.

Blue helmets serving with the UN peacekeeping mission to the DRC (known as MONUC) escorted the convoy from Goma to Rutshuru.