Reports of escalating clashes in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo raised renewed fears of outright war Monday, as rebels again neared the provincial capital of Goma.
The M23 rebels had pledged to halt their push toward Goma in order to negotiate, but government officials shot down the idea of talks, saying they were useless because Rwanda was pulling the strings behind the scenes. New violence erupted on the outskirts of Goma only hours after rebels made their pledge, the Associated Press reported.
Rwanda has denied any involvement in the rebellion, but U.N. experts say it and Uganda have funneled weapons and troops to the insurgents. The United States and other Western countries have cut aid to Rwanda over its alleged support for the M23. Rwanda, in turn, accused Congo of shelling its territory.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the rebel attacks Sunday and said targeting U.N. mission forces in the area would not be tolerated. Ban said “relevant states” should “use their influence on the M23 to bring about an immediate end to the attacks.”
Rwanda and Congo have a history of hostilities, and rebellion is not new to the region. In a recent report, the International Crisis Group lamented that foreign donors and African mediators had merely managed the crisis instead of solving it, and needed to put pressure on both countries to halt the crisis.
The new attacks in North Kivu province have sent an estimated 60,000 people fleeing, adding to an already perilous situation, U.N. agencies said Monday. More than 2.4 million people have been displaced by the violence. If the fighting worsens, the U.N. humanitarian office warned, aid agencies could be overstretched as they try to protect and care for civilians.