The recent flare-up of fighting in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has sent thousands of people fleeing across the border to Burundi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported today, voicing concern that intensified clashes could spell further displacement.Agency spokesperson Millicent Mutuli said the Congolese began leaving over the weekend when heavy fighting broke out in south Kivu between two rebel groups – the Mai-Mai militia and the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD-Goma).“We are increasingly concerned that there may be further displacement if the Mai-Mai offensive in the Kivu region continues,” she said, citing reports that the Mai-Mai militia intend to press on northwards toward the DRC town of Bukavu, on the shores of Lake Kivu, while RCD-Goma rebels say they will launch a counter-offensive to re-capture Uvira. “UNHCR is extremely worried that possible fighting for Bukavu or a counter-offensive for Uvira could lead to further population displacement into Burundi – which is itself fragile from years of conflict – or into south-western Rwanda,” she added.More than 5,000 refugees reportedly arrived in Burundi on Monday, added to the nearly 2,000 who crossed the border over the weekend, according to UNHCR. Many of the refugees who fled from Uvira are Congolese of ethnic Tutsi origin.UNHCR, which distributed basic supplies to the displaced families, is erecting large hangars to shelter them. Refugees reported that they would like to return home as soon as possible, but voiced fear that their homes and property had been looted.
There are signals from both the United States and the DPRK that it could be possible, with determined effort, to find a diplomatic solution, the Secretary-General said at a press conference at UN Headquarters in New York, noting that the US has indicated its readiness to talk, while Pyongyang is pulling back on claims that it has weapons of mass destruction.”What we’re also hoping to do with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is to get inspectors back in and eventually [the DPRK] will rescind its decision to pull out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT),” he added.In urging Pyongyang once again to comply with nuclear safeguards and to abide by its international agreements, the Secretary-General noted that the DPRK is the first country to withdraw from the NPT, and he voiced hope that it will come back into compliance. He also pointed out that the IAEA Board of Governors has given the country more time to come into compliance before bringing the matter to the Security Council.”I think we are at an early stage of this crisis,” Mr. Annan said. “There has been a lot of messages and jockeying for position, and statements are being made about the atomic agency or the others.”Asked about the role of Maurice Strong, the Secretary-General said Mr. Strong had been sent as an envoy to evaluate the possible impact of the crisis on the DPRK’s population because the UN could find it difficult to continue with the humanitarian programme under the circumstances.”He’s someone who has broad experience and is also quite well-known in the region, and they may want to discuss other things with him,” the Secretary-General said. “I did not discourage him from discussing other things if they come up, and of course, I have my own good offices, which is always available.”