World Bank pledges $1bn for DR Congo and neighbours

Congolese people carrying their children and belongings as they flee conflict (November 2013) Decades of conflict and mismanagement have left most Congolese in poverty

The World Bank has unveiled a $1bn (£660m) aid package to help the Democratic Republic of Congo and its neighbours, as fighting continues near the eastern city of Goma.

The money is to be used for health, education, cross-border trade and hydroelectricity projects, it said.

The announcement comes as World Bank head Jim Yong Kim and UN chief Ban Ki-moon start a tour of the region.

One person was killed when a mortar landed in Goma, a UN spokesman said.

Government and M23 rebel forces have been involved in heavy fighting near Goma since Monday, killing 19 people.

The clashes are the first since the M23 pulled out of the city last year under diplomatic pressure.

The UN says it will speed up efforts to deploy a 3,000-strong intervention force to eastern DR Congo to end the latest conflict.

'Shells and rockets'

Some 800,000 people have fled their homes since the M23 launched its rebellion last May.

Who are the M23 rebels?

Map
  • Named after the 23 March 2009 peace accord which they accuse the government of violating
  • This deal saw them join the army before they took up arms once more in April 2012
  • Also known as the Congolese Revolutionary Army
  • Mostly from minority Tutsi ethnic group
  • Deny being backed by Rwanda and Uganda
  • The UN and US imposed a travel ban and asset freeze in December 2012 on the group's leader, Sultani Makenga
  • Hit by heavy infighting in February 2013
  • Top commander Bosco Ntaganda surrendered to International Criminal Court in March 2013

The World Bank aid package is to support a peace deal signed in February between DR Congo and its neighbours, some of whom are accused of backing the rebels.

"This funding will help revitalize economic development, create jobs, and improve the lives of people who have suffered for far too long," Mr Kim in a statement.

The largest tranche of the aid - $340m - will go towards an 80-megawatt hydroelectric project in Rusumo Falls, providing electricity to Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania.

Despite its vast mineral wealth, decades of conflict and mismanagement mean most Congolese remain stuck in poverty.

The mortar fell in the Goma neighbourhood of Ndosho, killing one person and injuring four, said UN peacekeeping mission spokesman Madnodje Mounoubai, Associated Press news agency reports.

He said he did not know who fired the mortar.

Campaign group Human Rights Watch researcher Ida Sawyer told Reuters news agency that a two-year-old girl died and three members of her family, including a boy and girl, were wounded.

The BBC's Gabriel Gatehouse in Goma says government and rebel forces have clashed in Mutaho, 10km (6 miles) east of the city for a third day.

Shells and rockets have been fired, he says.

Four government soldiers and 15 rebels were killed in the clashes on Monday, government spokesperson Lambert Mende told the BBC.

Mr Ban is due to visit Goma on Thursday.

The renewed fighting showed the need to speed up the deployment of the intervention brigade so that it would be "fully responsible as soon as possible", Mr Ban said.

The UN approved the creation of the force - made up of troops from South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi - in March to "neutralise" rebels in DR Congo.

The troops will have the most robust mandate ever given to UN peacekeepers to end conflict, officials say.

Mr Ban and Mr Kim are also due to visit Rwanda and Uganda.

Last year, a UN report accused the two countries of backing the M23, an allegation they denied.

On Monday, Rwandan President Paul Kagame told the BBC that UN troops had "in some cases" made the situation in DR Congo worse.

He said any military effort to bring peace to DR Congo needed to be "properly co-ordinated" with political efforts.

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