As fighting between Congolese Government forces and troops loyal to renegade General Laurent Nkunda intensifies in the North Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the United Nations peacekeeping mission there has urged all illegal fighters to lay down their arms.
The mission made its call in a statement released following the start of a major offensive launched by the DRC Armed Forces (FARDC) against the dissident troops in the Mushake area, 40 kilometres northwest of Goma in eastern DRC.
The mission, known as MONUC, called on "all illegal combatants to lay down their weapons and join, without delay and without condition, the process of disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and, for the foreigners, of repatriation, while stressing that dispositions to this effect are in place and ready for their reception".
A statement issued in Accra by the UN Information Centre said on December 2, the rebels attacked Government positions in Nyanzale, an area further north in the province.
"FARDC troops, supported by their own heavy weapons and attack helicopters, continue to engage in violent fighting in the region, supported by MONUC in accordance with its mandate."
Stressing its determination to protect civilians, particularly internally displaced persons (IDPs), MONUC said it would "not allow rural areas with high concentrations of population or North Kivu large urban centres, to fall in the hands of the dissidents".
The mission voiced its determination to prevent any illegal armed group, particularly the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR), from occupying the zones from which dissident forces have been evicted. It will also work to facilitate the return of displaced persons to their homes.