NAIROBI (AFP) — A crisis summit on eastern DR Congo called for an immediate ceasefire Friday and the creation of humanitarian corridors amid fresh fighting on the ground and a warning by UN chief Ban Ki-moon that the conflict could spread.
But rebels at the centre of the conflict who did not attend rubbished the summit held in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, saying the Congolese people's problems would only be settled by direct talks with the Kinshasa government.
Diplomacy was "without hope after this summit," rebel spokesman Bertrand Bisimwa told AFP, adding that the participants were just going "round and round."
"There should be an immediate ceasefire by all the armed groups and militias in Nord-Kivu," said the emergency one-day meeting's final declaration.
It urged the implementation of the disarmament of rebel groups in the region and the beefing-up of the UN peacekeeping force's mandate.
The main protagonists, feuding presidents Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo, turned up but held no direct talks.
Renewed clashes broke out between Congolese troops and renegade general Laurent Nkunda's National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) around 15 kilometres (nine miles) from the regional capital Goma, scattering thousands of displaced people from a nearby camp.
The UN Mission in DR Congo, MONUC, deployed helicopters to try to contain the flare-up.
MONUC said the Congolese army had given assurances it had not launched a counter-offensive as initially feared, but had merely responded to rebel fire.
By then, it was too late for thousands who had fled a displaced people's camp at Kibati, near the front line. They headed towards Goma and the UN refugee agency said they did not return once the firing had subsided.
Bisimwa and western diplomats told AFP that troops from neighbouring Angola were active Friday.
"There are Angolan troops on the ground. Everybody has seen them. Everybody has heard them," Bisimwa said.
The Angolan army supported Congolese government forces as they battled rebel groups backed by Uganda and Rwanda during fighting between 1998 and 2003.
"We can say with confidence that there are no Angolan nor foreign troops on DRC territory at this point," UN assistant secretary-general for peacekeeping operations Edmond Mulet later responded.
In Nairobi, Ban used the summit to urge African leaders to stop the rot in eastern DR Congo or face a regional crisis.
"The recent military offensives by the CNDP have radically compounded the situation, led to severe humanitarian consequences and thrust the eastern DRC once more into a phase of heightened crisis. This crisis could engulf the broader sub-region," Ban said.
"As leaders of Africa, you have a historic responsibility, it is a critical moment for the Great Lakes region, and for Africa as a whole. We must put the cycle of violence behind us."
The United Nations and aid groups said the latest round of fighting had displaced 253,000 civilians since September and killed at least 100.
The European Union regretted the summit did not adopt measures to curb illegal mining which has been used by armed groups to finance the war.
The most concrete development was the creation of a mechanism tasked with facilitating the implementation of existing peace agreements.
The new body will be based in Nairobi and report to the UN and African Union.
At a meeting in Nairobi a year ago almost to the day, DRC and Rwanda committed to a plan aimed at stabilising the Kivus but both sides have failed to deliver.
Under that agreement, Kinshasa was supposed to disarm Rwandan Hutu rebels wanted over the 1994 genocide and operating in eastern Congo while Kigali was to stop supporting armed groups, including Nkunda's forces.
Kabila's spokesman accused UN peacekeepers of doing nothing to stop killings by rebels. "People are being slaughtered and MONUC did nothing," Kudura Kasongo said.
The top UN peacekeeping official, Alain Le Roy, said Friday that the UN should have protected civilians murdered in the DRC town of Kiwanja.
A senior Western official attending the summit admitted "more should have been done" and MONUC dispatched a mission to probe reports of summary executions in the Kiwanja area.
The summit called for a more robust peacekeeping force that could resort to peace-enforcing capabilities when needed.
MONUC is the UN's largest peacekeeping force with 17,000 troops but it has only a few hundred in the areas affected by the latest violence. Amending its mandate requires the UN Security Council's intervention.
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