Rebels have released the correspondent of a German newspaper who was abducted amid ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the German government confirmed Friday, Nov. 7.
An estimated 250,000 Congolese have been displaced
Thomas Scheen, 43, the Belgian-born correspondent of the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, was taken captive by Mai-Mai militias in the eastern part of the DR Congo on Tuesday.
The German Foreign Ministry said Friday Scheen and his two local assistants were safely in the hands of the UN peacekeeping force MONUC.
Reports said the three were captured in an area where there has been heavy fighting between pro-government Mai-Mai militias and General Laurent Nkunda's rebel forces, the National Congress in Defence of the People.
The release came as tens of thousands of Congolese fled in panic from fresh gunfire which broke out Friday in Kibati near the regional capital of Goma. It is believed some 65,000 people live in makeshift shelters in the camp.
Ban to attempt mediation
Ban Ki-Moon has called for a return to positions agreed to in an August ceasefire
These developments came a day after United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged the warring parties to end hostilities at a meeting with African Union leaders in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.
African leaders who attended the emergency summit urged an immediate ceasefire and the extension of UN peacekeeping powers in the country.
The summit also called for the creation of humanitarian corridors to help the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the conflict in the North Kivu region of eastern Congo.
The leaders also talked about ways to ease tension between Congolese President Joseph Kabila and Rwandan leader Paul Kagame, whose government has been accused of supporting the rebels, a claim he has vehemently denied.
But the Congolese rebel leader Nkunda, whose presence has not been requested for the meeting, had warned that the talks would be worthless unless leaders could convince President Kabila to negotiate directly with him over the conflict.
A rebel spokesman said the summit was held "for nothing," AFP news agency reported.
"It's only a regional summit. It doesn't have any impact on our demands," Nkunda told Reuters news agency by telephone Friday.
The usefulness of UN forces in Congo has been called into question
Nkunda's comments came as the Congolese government accused the UN of sitting on its hands and thereby allowing the killing of Congolese civilians by rebels.
"People are being slaughtered and MONUC did nothing," Kabila spokesman Kudura Kasongo said in Nairobi.
Rebel forces captured another town in North Kivu province Thursday, adding further weight to the argument that UN forces there are incapable of quelling the conflict.
While the UN has some 17,000 troops in Congo, only a few hundred are stationed in the current hot spots.
The fighting in eastern and northern DR Congo has driven at least 250,000 people from their homes, creating a fresh humanitarian crisis.