DR Congo

DR Congo: Security Council welcomes rebel leader's ceasefire announcement

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The Security Council has welcomed the announcement by rebel leader Laurent Nkunda of an immediate ceasefire in the volatile east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where recent intensified fighting has taken a heavy humanitarian toll.

In a presidential statement issued last night, the 15-member body said that it looks to the former Congolese army general who now heads the militia known as the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) to "ensure its effective and durable implementation."

The Council condemned the CNDP's recent military offensive in North Kivu province, which borders Rwanda and Uganda, calling for an end to the conflict.

It also spoke out against the "dramatic humanitarian consequences" of the fighting, urging all parties to abide by international law and protect civilians, guarantee access to those in need and ensure the safety of aid workers.he Council affirms that any attack against the civilian population, including at major population centres, is totally unacceptable

"The Council affirms that any attack against the civilian population, including at major population centres, is totally unacceptable," according to the statement read out by Ambassador Zhang Yesui of China, which holds the Council presidency this month.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported today that 8,000 Congolese have taken flight and crossed the border into Uganda, while yesterday it said that as many as 45,000 people have fled camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) for nearby Goma, North Kivu's capital.

Yesterday's Council statement called on signatories to keep up their ends of recent peace agreements. "In this respect, the Security Council calls on the authorities of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda to take concrete steps to defuse tensions and to restore stability in the region."

It called on the DRC's Government to take measures to ensure there is no cooperation between the Congolese forces (FARDC) and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a mainly Hutu militia group.

The Council also expressed its concern over reports of heavy fire being exchanged across the DRC-Rwanda border.

UNHCR said today that Goma is calm following a night of fierce shooting and widespread looting.

But the agency said that the security situation means it has no access to areas where internally displaced persons (IDPs) are taking shelter outside the city.

For its part, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) announced it was able to distribute food to hospitals in Goma yesterday, but its trucks - which are loaded with food and ready to move - remain unable to deliver aid outside the city.

In preparation for the possible movement of refugees from Goma into Rwanda, the agency has prepositioned enough food for 2,000 people at the Nkamira transit centre in Gisenyi, across the border from North Kivu's capital.