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Fighting Forces UN to Halt Aid Delivery in Congo

By Noel King
04 December 2007

Fighting between forces loyal to dissident General Laurent Nkunda and the Congolese Army has forced the U.N. World Food program to suspend the delivery of food aid to between 250,000 and 300,000 vulnerable people. Noel King has more in this report from Kigali.

Renewed fighting has dealt a sharp blow to aid operations in Congo's volatile North Kivu province, where at least 400,000 people have fled their homes since late last year.

WFP officials say they hope to resume operations soon.

Aya Shneerson, the director of the World Food Program in North and South Kivu Province spoke to VOA by phone.

"It is just too unsafe for our staff to get out and deliver food. We are hoping that can be reevaluated and looked at on a daily basis," Shneerson said. "If the conflict intensifies, people will need us even more, not less."

Shneerson said the World Food Program will remain in the North Kivu capital of Goma until the situation calms down.

Fighting resumed this weekend when rebels attacked the army garrison town of Nyanzale. The army struck back, attacking the rebel stronghold of Mushake on Monday.

Clashes between rebels and the armed forces are sporadic and unpredictable, severely hindering the delivery of aid.

"We were registering displaced people in Nyanzale when it was attacked," explained Shneereson. "Even our partners, who were on the spot registering, had to flee. The situation is so fluid, it changes on a daily basis."

The U.N. Mission in Congo said the armed forces are continuing to battle insurgents. Congolese army officials were not available to comment.

The United States has urged Nkunda to surrender and go into exile to avoid further bloodshed.

The rebel general says he is trying to protect eastern Congo's minority Tutsi population from attacks by Hutu militias known as the Democratic Force for the Liberation of Rwanda. The militia has ties to the perpetrators of neighboring Rwanda's 1994 genocide.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will travel to the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, next week, to discuss conflicts in Congo, Somalia and Sudan.

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