UN Council to hold emergency DRC talks
28 October 2013, 12:07
Goma - The UN Security Council will hold emergency talks on Monday
on a new surge in fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in which a
UN peacekeeper was killed, diplomats said as government troops cleared rebels
from strategic positions in the country's restive east.
The FARDC regular army took back control of both the city of
Rutshuru and the rebel-held town of Kiwanja, home to a base used by the UN
mission Monusco that had been repeatedly looted by rebels, said the governor of
North-Kivu province, Julien Paluku.
Monusco said a Tanzanian officer was killed in Kiwanja,
where United Nations forces joined the army to drive out rebels on the third
day of clashes since a fresh flare-up in violence on Friday. The circumstances
of his death were unclear, said the UN force.
The soldier was the third Tanzanian with the UN brigade to
have been killed in recent months.
"The soldier died while protecting the people of
Kiwanja," said Monusco head Martin Kobler in a statement.
The spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said
in a statement the UN chief "condemns in the strongest terms the killing
of a Tanzanian peacekeeper who came under fire from the M23 movement in eastern
Democratic Republic of the Congo.
"The Secretary-General offers his sincere condolences
and sympathy to the family of the victim, and to the Government of the United
Republic of Tanzania."
The statement added that the United Nations "remains
committed to taking all necessary actions ... to protect civilians in eastern
Democratic Republic of the Congo".
France later called for an emergency meeting of the
15-member Security Council to discuss the latest crisis in the troubled region.
M23 said it had "retreated without combat", saying
it "refused to fight in Kiwanja".
In a statement, the group also threatened to pull out of
stalled peace talks with Kinshasa unless there was an "immediate cessation
of the hostilities".
In the town of Rutshuru, relieved residents "showered
soldiers with flowers to thank them for their help" after the rebels fled,
according to one local man who gave his name as Bruno.
'Mass graves found'
By Sunday evening, a high-ranking army officer said troops
had also taken the strategic town of Kibumba, which has seen heavy fighting
since clashes first broke out there on Friday. "Kibumba is under FARDC
control," the source told AFP.
Provincial governor Paluku said two mass graves had been
discovered in the town. He called for "an international
investigation" and said army troops had been told not to touch the bodies.
A Monusco officer who did not wish to be named said there
had been "numerous flights by M23 rebels" but refused to confirm that
government forces were in complete control of Kibumba.
There was no immediate comment from M23 rebels on the
situation in the Kibumba, some 25km north of the regional mining hub of Goma.
Kibumba, located high on a plateau at an altitude of nearly
1 800 metres, is an outpost that provides access to rebel territory
further north, and has been home to the M23 since a Monusco offensive in late
This latest bout of fighting comes less than a week after
the breakdown of peace talks in Uganda, which both sides agreed to in 2012
after a rebel offensive saw the M23 briefly take control of Goma.
The UN has since deployed a special brigade of 3 000 African
troops with an unprecedented offensive mandate but observers remain wary of an
escalation that could draw in the entire region.
The UN chief's top envoys to the conflict, Kobler and Mary
Robinson, have voiced grave concern over the fresh fighting, calling for
"maximum restraint". The United States and European Union have also
sounded the alarm.
But the unrest showed no signs of abating with the M23
warning in a statement on Sunday that "it will no longer tolerate another
military attack on our troops' positions".
If attacked, the rebels would plan a large-scale
counter-offensive against "all enemy positions", M23 communications
chief Amani Kabasha said in the statement.
DRC's neighbour Rwanda on Friday accused the Congolese
army of firing three shells over the border into its territory and threatened
Kinshasa has long accused Kigali of pulling the strings behind
the rebellion and UN experts have even said that the M23's "de facto chain
of command" was topped by Rwanda's defence minister.