Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Nkunda Pulls Back, Doss Confronts Press

Reuters reports that hundreds of Congolese rebel fighters pulled back on Wednesday from frontline positions in a move U.N. peacekeepers hoped would open the way for talks on ending weeks of conflict in east Congo.
"Since yesterday evening they (the rebels) have been withdrawing. They are pulling back south on three axes - from Kanyabayonga towards Kibirizi, from Kanyabayonga towards Nyanzale and from Rwindi south," U.N. military spokesman Lt.-Col. Jean-Paul Dietrich told Reuters.

Alan Doss gave a press conference from Kinshasa on Tuesday afternoon. It is available here. Doss said that more peacekeepers could help stabilize the east, but will not bring peace to the region. "Reinforcements will allow us to do something about the situation, which has deteriorated fast, help us to stabilize the situation a bit, and allow the political and diplomatic process to go forward." But, he added, "reinforcements are not going to resolve all the problems."

Doss noted that one complication has been that the FARDC sometimes disintegrates when faced with a challenge from Nkunda. In response to a question about expanding MONUC's mission, he said, "I'm not sure the council would want us to substitute for the national army. That would require a new mandate and I think they would emphasize that diplomatic and political tracks be fully utilized, that force not be the single solution to the crisis. Reinforcements will help us protect population centers, but I don't think the Council is saying, 'Go out and defeat forces throughout Kivu.' Rather it is about bringing political and diplomatic forces into play."

Doss added that he was unable to confirm rumors that Angolan or Rwandan forces were involved in the fighting.

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