Mission to evaluate displaced in Minembwe


Photo: Olu Sarr/IRIN
Some internally displaced persons in South Kivu Province, Democratic Republic of Congo

The United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) has dispatched aid workers to evaluate the condition and needs of 4,000 displaced people in the eastern plateau town of Minembwe.

"The goal of this emergency mission is to evaluate the situation on the ground and especially to obtain the suspension of any hostilities by encouraging dialogue between the two fighting forces," Thierry Kranzer, the MONUC spokesman in the eastern town of Bukavu, said on Thursday.

MONUC said it would also evacuate those who were severely wounded during the fighting between government and dissident troops in this area of South Kivu Province.

Until now, fighting had been too severe to allow such a mission. In addition, humanitarian officials said, the displaced had fled in several different directions. At least 3,000 residents are still hiding in the hills and bush near Minembwe.

MONUC sent three helicopters to fly in the 50 humanitarian workers, high-ranking Congolese army and MONUC personnel to Minembwe, in an area of high plateau 150km west of Uvira, one of the main towns in South Kivu.

Fighting began on 25 January between government troops of the 122nd and 12th brigades against those loyal to the dissident colonel, Michel Rukunda. He joined Gen Patrick Masunzu, commander of the 122nd brigade, who in 2005 rebelled against the authorities in defence of Congolese of Rwandan origins, known as the Banyamulenge, against harassment and physical abuse.

The army retook Minembwe on Wednesday. Kranzer said the army killed five dissidents, wounded five others and captured two officers.

Meanwhile, negotiations are continuing between the government and another dissident army general, Laurent Nkunda, under the mediation of the Rwandan government, in a bid to end the low-level rebellion he has waged against the Congolese government, mostly in North Kivu, since 2004.

Nkunda said recently he had agreed to participate in talks with the government on condition that troops loyal to him are integrated into the army and the rights of all Kinyarwanda speakers in the country are protected.

The talks between Nkunda's rebel movement, known as the Congrès national pour la défense du peuple, and the Congolese army, have been in progress since early January.

The reintegration into the army of Nkunda's 81st and 83rd brigades has been ongoing.

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