3 Nov 2008

UN sending aid convoy into rebel-held Congo

7:32 am on 3 November 2008

The United Nations is to send a humanitarian aid convoy into rebel-held areas in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday.

It will be the first aid consignment in a week to reach the area north of the city of Goma.

At least 50,000 civilians are believed to have camps around Rutshuru, 70km north of Goma. Rutshuru was taken by rebel forces on Tuesday.

Envoys from Europe, the United States and the UN have criss-crossed the Great Lakes region in recent days, trying to prevent the Tutsi rebellion from escalating into a rerun of a war in 1998-2003.

A ceasefire by rebel General Laurent Nkunda appeared to be holding on Sunday.

The UN has 17,000 peacekeepers deployed in Congo, a former Belgian colony.

General Nkunda accuses government forces of backing Rwandan Hutu rebels operating in east Congo who took part in the 1994 genocide killings in Rwanda of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

President Joseph Kabila denies this and has in turn accused Tutsi-led Rwanda of backing Nkunda. It denies this.

Australian aid promised

Australia has pledged $A1 million in humanitarian aid for the Congo.

The ABC reports the Australian government already gives the UN between $A10 - $A15 million per year for peace-keeping activities in the war-torn nation.

Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith said the Government is very concerned about the latest bout of violence, but Australia was not considering contributing troops to the UN force.