Former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo is pitching into the turmoil in the Democratic Republic of Congo, heading a UN mission to the east of the vast country. He is meeting with rebel leader Laurent Nkunda in a bid to end heavy fighting that broke out in August, shattering a truce signed last year.
It has sent a quarter of a million people fleeing for their lives from towns and refugee camps into jungle and desert, threatening a humanitarian disaster. And Nkunda has bigger ambitions, saying he will march on the capital Kinshasa. Europe’s concern is increasing: “In a democratic country there’s no place for groups of illegal armed rebels,” said EU Commissioner for Development & Humanitarian Aid, Louis Michel.
The Misson of the United Nations in Congo’s 17,000 men, sent to monitor the ceasefire, complain their hands are tied: “The worst thing would be to let public opinion think the UN is guilty of inaction. The Congolese are suffering, and MONUC doesn’t sit by passively,
but its mandate and means are limited, so it does what it can with its limited resources. I hope reinforcements will boost MONUC’s efficiency,” adds Michel.
The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, has called for more troops for the DRC, while Kinshasa is allowing Rwandan Tutsi intelligence officers to help in fighting the Hutu rebels who have so destabilised the DRC’s north-east, themselves refugees from the Rwandan civil war.