KINSHASA, 9 October 2007 (IRIN) - A new wave of displaced civilians is on the move in the North Kivu province of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo as dissident general Laurent Nkunda announced a ceasefire with government troops was broken.
A MONUC patrol unit blocking a bridge
"There are approximately 6,000 IDP [internally displaced persons] families at Mushake, 90km north of Goma, the provincial capital, fleeing the current clashes," said Maj Prem Kumar Tiwar, a spokesman for MONUC, the UN peacekeeping force in the DRC.
He added that clashes between the army and troops loyal to Nkunda were continuing in the area for a third straight day.
Tiwar said MONUC helicopters were monitoring the situation with frequent reconnaissance flights.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is also due to send another assessment team to the affected areas, when security permits, according to OCHA spokesman Louis Igneault.
Since January, Igneault said almost half a million people had been displaced by fighting in the province.
Fighting intense, claims Nkunda
"The ceasefire was broken by the government because we are still being attacked, as was the case this morning in the mountain villages of Mwesso and Karuba," Nkunda told IRIN in a telephone interview.
"Fighting is so intense it is hard to provide casualty figures," he added.
MONUC had negotiated the ceasefire in September.
"We feel we have to use our right of retaliation and defence because we are still under attack from the government," Nkunda said.
Bwambalie Kakolele, one of Nkunda's deputies, said: "We have to launch a counter-offensive not just in North Kivu but also in Ituri and South Kivu where we also have fighters. We respected the ceasefire for a month, but the others attacked us."
There was no independent confirmation of fighting outside North Kivu.
Bwambalie accused government troops of joining forces with Mayi-Mayi militia, Rwandan Hutu fighters based in eastern Congo as well as rebels from Burundi and Uganda.
"We are now refusing to negotiate directly with the government but we want the international community to mediate between us and the government," said Bwambalie.
Speaking on the MONUC-supported Radio Okapi, Col Delphin Kahindi, the deputy military commander for North Kivu, said dissident troop attacks against army positions had been unsuccessful.
"We have routed the dissident troops and are now mopping up in these areas," he said.
Insecurity remains problematic in Masisi and Rutshuru districts, with sharp clashes reported on a daily basis
Military officials, who requested anonymity, said the government had sent more than 10 tonnes of material to North Kivu.
Meanwhile, in a situation report dated 8 October, OCHA said a heavy military presence and daily fighting between the army and Nkunda's troops had rendered a road between two key towns inaccessible but distribution of aid to displaced civilians continues in other parts of the province.
"Insecurity remains problematic in Masisi and Rutshuru districts, with sharp clashes reported on a daily basis," OCHA said in a situation report dated 8 October. "The road between Sake and Masisi town has become inaccessible in the past days due to heavy military presence and insecurity."
However, the agency said access to Masisi and other areas was being reviewed daily, and that aid missions could be carried out and distribution could take place in other parts of Masisi and Rutshuru where newly displaced civilians had settled.
"Distributions are expected to continue over the week as long as security conditions will allow it," OCHA said.