The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has helped more than 100 army soldiers, along with their wives and children, to evacuate from a town in the volatile far east of the country that has been the scene of fresh violence between armed groups at the weekend.
The mission, known as MONUC, said in a press statement today that UN blue helmets stationed in North Kivu province were able to escort 102 members of the Congolese armed forces (FARDC) and 125 dependants from Kichanga to Nyanzala after a request from FARDC.
The evacuation followed fresh fighting around Kichanga involving forces loyal to Laurent Nkunda, a dissident faction leader of the FARDC, and members of the ex-Rwandan armed forces (FAR)/Interahamwe and the Mayi-Mayi armed group known as PARECO.
MONUC said it was particularly concerned about the presence of Interahamwe members – notorious for their involvement in the 1994 Rwandan genocide – in the combat zone.
The fighting in North Kivu, which has remained one of the DRC's most unstable regions since the official end of the civil war in 2003 and last year's historic national elections, and in neighbouring areas has intensified sharply in recent months, forcing more than 220,000 civilians to flee their homes since December last year. The most recent clashes have been between FARDC members and those loyal to Mr. Nkunda.
Stressing it would continue to intervene to protect North Kivu's towns and cities, in line with its mandate, MONUC noted that it had deployed two companies of supplementary peacekeepers to the province on Saturday.
The mission added that direct clashes between the FARDC and the Nkunda faction seem to have stalled, and it said that the presence of MONUC troops in the area around the town of Sake – whose residents fled ahead of the advance of the Nkunda forces – presented the opportunity for the townspeople there to return to their homes.