4 Nov 2008

Aid convoy reaches town in Congo

9:48 am on 4 November 2008

A UN convoy has arrived in rebel-held areas in eastern Democratic the Republic of Congo, carrying medicine to the town of Rutshuru.

But aid workers found that refugee camps that previously held tens of thousands are now virtually empty. It is believed many people left fearing attacks.

Last week, rebels led by General Laurent Nkunda routed the Congolese army near Goma, the capital of North Kivu province.

The BBC reports a fragile ceasefire is now in place, and General Nkunda has said he will guarantee "humanitarian corridors" for the convoy through rebel lines.

The 12-vehicle convoy, escorted by UN troops, arrived in Rutshuru on Monday, carrying medical supplies and water purification tablets, but no food.

The UN said it hoped food convoys could follow.

A large Kibumba camp, just north of Goma, was empty. All the buildings are reported to be flattened.

Meanwhile, France has called for the mandate for the UN's 17,000 peacekeepers to be strengthened. It says different rules of engagement are needed in the eastern Congo.