DR Congo

DRC army takes control of key battling area in North Kivu

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KINSHASA, Nov 18, 2008 (Xinhua via COMTEX News Network) -- The army of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has controlled a key battling area in the eastern province of North Kivu after repelling an offensive by Tutsi rebels, according to an official statement.

Charles Kasereka, interior minister of North Kivu, told reporters on Monday in the provincial capital of Goma that the FARDC (government forces) took control of the strategic area of Kanyabayonga, where the army fought the rebel National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) on Sunday.

Kasereka said the humanitarian situation was deplorable without assistance to refugees in and around the town of Kanyabayonga where converge the main roads of the province.

The UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC known as MONUC confirmed the fresh fighting on Sunday, saying one of the peacekeepers was wounded in the crossfire.

The CNDP also claimed to gain ground near Rwindi, accusing the government of launching attacks first.

The resumption of clash occurred in the wake of a good-offices mission by UN special envoy for the DRC Olusegun Obasanjo, who met with CNDP leader Laurent Nkunda in Jomba on Sunday and said Nkunda had pledged to respect the ceasefire if not attacked.

The rebel leader unilaterally called a ceasefire on Oct. 29 at the gate of Goma amid international calls for a halt of violence. But the fragile truce soon collapsed with the rival sides exchanging accusations, blaming each other for renewed fighting.

To add to international peace efforts, British Minister of State for Africa, Lord Mark Malloch Brown, began a three-day peace seeking mission on Monday in the troubled West African country.

After talks with DRC Prime Minister Adolphe Muzito, the British official said a durable solution lies in the reinforcement of the MONUC. The position is shared by the international community and the UN Security Council will adopt a resolution this week to that end, he added.

UN officials have confirmed that the UN Security Council hopes to vote this week on a resolution that would boost the MONUC from the current 17,000 troops to nearly 20,000 to help avert a repeat of the 1998-2003 war.

Fighting resumed in August after the government and the rebels signed a UN-brokered deal in January in Goma. The renewed conflict has displaced 250,000 people and threatened the stability of the Great Lakes region in Africa.