27 February 2013

Congo-Kinshasa: UN Mission Shelters Hundreds of Civilians Following Clashes

Photo: Kate Holt/IRIN
Displaced families find shelter at an orphanage in eastern Congo (file photo).

The United Nations peacekeeping operation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is sheltering some 400 people in what remains a tense situation following fighting between national troops and an armed group, a spokesperson for the world body said today.

"The UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) reports that, earlier today, near its base in Kitchanga, North Kivu, heavy fighting took place," deputy UN spokesperson Eduardo del Buey told journalists in New York.

The situation remains "tense" following the clashes between Congolese armed forces and elements of the Alliance des Patriotes pour un Congo Libre et Souverain (APCLS), an armed group, Mr. del Buey added.

At least one civilian was killed and nine other people injured, MONUSCO reported, including one of its peacekeepers, who was shot in the arm and remains in stable condition.

The sheltering of civilians at its base in Kitchanga falls within the Mission's mandated role to protect civilians, defend human rights and support provisions of humanitarian aid.

Nearly a million people have been displaced in North Kivu by clashes between DRC's national army and fighters from the rebel M23 group, and in recent weeks, more than 300,000 people have been displaced by additional fighting in the south-eastern province of Katanga.

The M23 rebels are former DRC army troops who mutinied in April 2012, and named themselves after a 23 March 2009 peace agreement that they reportedly say has not been implemented.

To assist MONUSCO 'blue helmets' in protecting civilians, the UN Security Council is currently considering a military brigade with peace enforcement authorities beyond traditional UN peacekeeping.

A decision is expected after Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon briefs the Council next week on recent developments related to the DRC, including the signing of a UN-backed peace framework on 24 February whereby regional countries honour DRC's sovereignty, and work in support of its stabilization.

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