DR Congo

DR Congo/North Kivu: More fighting, SADC expresses support for Kinshasa

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More fighting has been reported in the area of Goma, capital of North Kivu. UN sources said elements from Laurent Nkunda's CNDP and irregular forces allied with the Congolese regular army erupted today near Ngungu (60 km. southeast of Goma). It is unclear whether the fighting was a mere 'skirmish' or the resumption of the intense fighting that have affected the same area in recent weeks and that the local UN mission (MONUC) had managed to control last week. Local sources, however, said it is certain that the villages of Ngungu, Murambi and Luzirandaka are now empty as their residents have been fleeing over the past 24 hours. Evidence of fleeing civilians was also noted in the area of Kanyabayonga, 160 km. north of Goma, where, said 'Radio Okapi' (MONUC's radio station), and several refugees from Nyanzale, Kikuku, Mine and Kibirizi have been arriving since last Saturday. MISNA sources in Goma, nevertheless, said that information from the areas around Goma remain very confusing, while the important developments appear to be coming from the political-diplomatic front, where the Southern African Development Community (SADC), at an emergency summit in South Africa over the Congolese crisis and developments in Zimbabwe, yesterday, has taken a strong stance in support of Kinshasa's government and army. In the final document emerging from the summit, the 15 SADC regional leaders said that "the security situation in RD Congo threatens the peace and stability of the Great Lakes and Southern African regions", openly accusing the CNDP leaders of having failed to apply "many of the accords signed to restore peace and security in the region of the Great Lakes, on account of the intransigence of Laurent Nkunda", adding that there is a need to "support the Congolese army to protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the territory". On the military front, the signatories have also announced the immediate deployment of a team of experts to Congo to verify the situation in the east. Moreover, a monitoring commission shall also verify the situation at the borders with Burundi, Uganda and Rwanda, while military consultants shall be sent to work in cooperation with the leadership of the Congolese army "over issues that shall be decided with Kinshasa". While reiterating that the solution to the Congolese crisis will only happen through negotiations, SADC has also emphasized the urgent nature of the measures needed in RD Congo, stressing that "the region shall not remain still looking at the incessant and destructive acts of violence of any armed group against innocent civilians".[AB]