DR Congo

Top UN peacekeeping official meets President Kabila in Kinshasa

The top United Nations peacekeeping official met President Laurent Kabila in Kinshasa today as part of the UN effort to explain its plans to deploy an observer mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
"A preliminary read-out of the meeting indicated that the discussions were positive," a UN spokesman told the press in New York about President Kabila's discussions with Under-Secretary-General Bernard Miyet, who heads the UN Department for Peacekeeping Operations.

"Miyet is seeking the full support essential to deploy the more than 5,500-strong force," spokesman Fred Eckhard said, adding that reconnaissance missions to the four sectoral headquarters of the newly approved UN observer mission had been planned for as early as next week.

Meanwhile, refugees from the DRC are continuing to cross into an area of neighbouring Congo, which can only be reached by boat and where relief operations are "extremely difficult," the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today.

"An estimated 25,000 refugees have settled in villages on the Republic of Congo side, stretching some 500 km from Betou in the north to Njoundou in the south," said Ron Redmond, spokesman for the Geneva-based agency. They are fleeing fighting between rebels and government troops.

"A continuing shortage of fuel and general insecurity in the area make UNHCR's relief operation extremely difficult," he added. "So far, we've managed to reach 13,500 refugees in 17 villages in the northern sector of Impfondo [with] plastic sheeting, fishing nets and soap."

Many of the refugees are fishermen and get their food from the river, the UN refugee agency says. But the authorities in the Congo capital, Brazzaville, say they would prefer that the refugees be settled in camps away from the border, citing insecurity and the risk of infiltration by armed elements.