The World Bank has announced $1bn in development funding for Africa’s Great Lakes region, where renewed fighting this week between the government and rebels in eastern Congo has raised fears once again of an escalation in the conflict.
Jim Yong Kim, the bank’s president, unveiled on Wednesday the proposed aid financing for one of Africa’s most intractable conflict regions on the first day of a trip with UN chief Ban Ki-moon to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda.
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The tour has coincided with clashes between Congo’s army and fighters from the M23 rebel group near the eastern city of Goma on the border with Rwanda.
At least 19 people have been killed this week.
Kim said in a statement released in Kinshasa that the funds would help finance health and education services, hydro-electric projects and cross-border trade in the area.
“We believe this can be a major contributor to a lasting peace in the Great Lakes region,” he said.
“This funding will help revitalise economic development, create jobs, and improve the lives of people who have suffered for far too long.”
This week’s fighting was the first since November, when M23 fighters routed the Democratic Republic of Congo’s army and briefly seized Goma, despite the presence of thousands of UN peacekeepers.
UN experts accused Rwanda of sending troops and weapons across the border to support the M23 last year. Rwanda denies the accusation.
Peace talks between M23 and the Congolese government in Kampala, the capital of neighbouring Uganda, have stalled.
The M23 is mainly made up of the members of a previous Tutsi-dominated rebel group which integrated into the ranks of the army following a 2009 peace deal.
But they deserted en masse last year and have stepped up training in their strongholds in preparation for the deployment of a UN Intervention Brigade with a mandate to neutralise armed groups across the region.