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DRC: MONUC worried by renewed fighting in the east


KINSHASA, 23 Dec 2002 (IRIN) - The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo said on Sunday that it was worried by renewed fighting around Beni and Uvira in the east of the country, coming as it did on the heels of an all-inclusive peace accord designed to end four years of war.

It is an unjustifiable resumption of fighting after the belligerents announced their truce," Hamadoun Toure, the spokesman for the mission, known as MONUC, told IRIN.

The fighting had been raging for five days in the region of Beni, 250 km northeast of Goma, North Kivu Province, and around Uvira, South Kivu, he said, between the Mouvement pour la liberation du Congo (MLC) and the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie-National (RCD-N) on the one hand, and the RCD-Kisangani/Mouvement de liberation (RCD-K-ML) on the other hand. In a communiqué, MONUC said the fighting between these groups, which has been ongoing for a year now, had "unfortunately not ended despite the signing of the 17 December Pretoria accord".

The fighting started three days after the signing of the accord. Different parties have been accusing each other of restarting the fighting. MONUC has said that the MLC and the RCD-N arrived at a point 80 km from Beni, after having captured Mambasa, Komanda and Teturi. Despite this, the RCD-N leader, Roger Lumbala, accused the government of having started the hostilities in support of the pro-government RCD-K-ML, which has been allied to Kinshasa since April.

The MONUC force commander, Gen Mountaga Diallo, told IRIN that so far the number of victims of the fighting was unknown. Initial estimates are that at least 50,000 people have been displaced in the last few days. "But before the capture of Mambasa by MLC-RCD-N, there were [already] 20,000 displaced," he said, citing figures provided by an NGO. This would bring the number of the displaced to around 70,000.

Meanwhile, heavy fighting around Uvira between the pro-government Mayi-Mayi militia and the RCD-Goma is also preoccupying MONUC. An attack by the Mayi-Mayi, Diallo told IRIN, appeared to be linked to the RCD's earlier seizure of Fizi-Baraka, about 100 south of Uvira. "There were skirmishes on Sunday before noon, but calm seems to have returned that afternoon," Diallo said on Monday.

The Pretoria accord provides for the formation of a transitional government with a president and four vice-presidents in which the belligerents and unarmed opposition will share cabinet and other posts. The facilitator of the inter-Congolese dialogue, Ketumile Masire, is due to convene a meeting, during which the government will be formed and a constitution adopted for the country.

However, the fighting, MOMUC said, presented a grave threat to the accord, even before its ratification.