Source: AFP

Congo rebels say rivals generally respecting buffer zones

KINSHASA (AFP) — Rebels said Sunday rival forces were mostly staying out of the buffer zones created by their unilateral withdrawal from key fronts in strife-torn eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Bertrand Bisimwa, a spokesman for the rebels led by renegade general Laurent Nkunda, said government troops and a pro-government militia had gone into one zone in the fishing village of Vitshumbi in Nord-Kivu province.

"But the rest is very calm. The buffer zones appear to be respected," he told AFP by telephone.

Peacekeepers from the UN Mission in DR Congo (MONUC) are patrolling the buffer zones, Bisimwa said.

The rebels had urged MONUC to fill the void after they pulled out of two frontlines 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of the regional capital Goma, saying they wanted to give peace efforts a chance.

But Nkunda's National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) remained in a strategic front some 15 kilometres (10 miles) north of Goma, a city of 500,000 people.

No fighting was reported in Nord-Kivu for a third day in a row on Sunday morning.

"The general situation is calm. No major incidents have been reported," said MONUC's military spokesman, Lieutenant-Colonel Jean-Paul Dietrich.

Bisimwa said: "There is always a precarious calm that can be broken at any moment. We remain on guard. If they try to attack us, we will defend ourselves."

Humanitarian groups have expressed concern over the plight of more than 250,000 people who have been displaced since fighting erupted between the rebels and government forces in August.

Source: AFP

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