Fighting in the province of North Kivu between Government forces (FARDC) and the National Congress in Defence of the People (known as the CNDP), a militia led by former general Laurent Nkunda, has displaced as many as 253,000 Congolese in recent months.
Today’s summit, hosted by the African Union (AU), brings together DRC President Joseph Kabila and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, which borders North Kivu, as well as the leaders of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and South Africa.
“Before anything else, we must take urgent measures to contain the present crisis created by the upsurge of fighting in eastern DRC,” Mr. Ban told the leaders.
“Neither the DRC, nor Rwanda, nor the rest of the central Africa region can afford to be dragged back into conflict. The international community cannot allow this to occur.”
Mr. Ban, in a statement issued yesterday, had voiced deep concern at fresh fighting in North Kivu and urged all armed groups to get behind efforts to broker a political solution to the current crisis.
At today’s meeting, he stressed the need to deal with the “armed group challenge,” pointing out that the grave consequences of foreign armed groups in the DRC are felt not only by the Congolese people, but they also continue to weigh heavily across region.
“For far too long, peace and security in your region has been threatened by armed groups, domestic and foreign, present on the soil of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They have been operating from there with impunity, aggravating strains between your countries and between your peoples.”
In seeking a political solution, the Secretary-General said that “our urgent task is to turn the Nairobi and Goma principles into concrete steps on the ground,” referring to previous agreements which provided for a ceasefire, the disengagement of troops and the disarmament of armed groups.
“We need to end the conflict in the east, and prevent it from spilling over into the wider sub-region. We need to restore the authority of the State, and consolidate the stability that has been achieved in the rest of the country,” he added.
“As leaders of Africa, you have a historic responsibility – this is a critical moment for the Great Lakes region, and for Africa as a whole. We must put the cycle of violence behind us. We must build a shared future of stability, peace, development and human rights for all citizens of your countries,” Mr. Ban stated.
Even as the leaders gathered in the Kenyan capital for today’s talks, there are reports of fresh fighting in eastern DRC.
The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in the North Kivu capital of Goma reported that shooting erupted this morning in the vicinity of camps in Kibati housing internally displaced persons (IDPs), interrupting the ongoing distribution of aid and causing panic among the camp population.
UNHCR staff said the shooting stopped after about 30 minutes, but IDPs from the camp continued to move toward Goma, to the south.
Meanwhile, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the total number of new IDPs or persons who were already displaced and had to flee again in North Kivu after September was estimated to be around 253,000 persons. This is in addition to the existing 800,000 IDPs from previous hostilities.