DR Congo

DRC: MONUC flights to Bunia suspended until shooting inquiry completed

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KINSHASA, 27 February (IRIN) - All flights to the northeastern city of Bunia in Ituri District by the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) have been suspended after one of its helicopters was fired on Monday, according to the MONUC spokesman, Hamadoun Toure.
He told a news conference in the capital, Kinshasa, on Wednesday that flights would resume once MONUC completed an inquiry into the incident, and when security was restored in the area. However, he said, this did not mean that the mission had severed contacts with the leader of the Bunia-based Union des patriotes congolais rebel movement, Thomas Lubanga.

"We have a team present on the ground that is open to any proposals likely to facilitate the implementation of the Ituri Pacification Commission, which is to be preceded by an agreement for the cessation of hostilities," Toure said.

He said the recent visit to Bunia by the MONUC force commander, Gen Mountaga Diallo - whose helicopter was fired on - had yielded no concrete results. "Unfortunately, there is no significant breakthrough yet. MONUC is doing its utmost to relaunch the implementation of the Ituri Pacification Commission," he said.

As for the overall security situation in the region, Toure said MONUC had received "unconfirmed reports" of fighting in and around Bunia. "Our observers were unable to get to the area to confirm the information owing to the prevailing insecurity," he said. "The situation is very tense. We must do everything possible to reach a solution to the crisis."

Asked about the continued failure of the Rwandan-backed Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie-Goma (RCD-Goma) to demilitarise the northeastern city of Kisangani despite repeated calls by the UN Security Council, he said demilitarisation was "unconditional" and should be carried out by RCD-Goma "in compliance with the relevant resolutions of the Security Council".

He added that it would be unfair to hold MONUC responsible for the failure to demilitarise, as the peacekeeping mission had trained 200 Congolese police officers and several other judicial police officers as "an attendant step" for the demilitarisation of Kisangani.

[ENDS]

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