British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said Britain could send troops to the DRC as part of an eventual EU force to end the fighting in the country.
Miliband visited Congo over the weekend with French counterpart Bernard Kouchner after the recent dramatic escalation of eastern Congo’s civil war, which is based on ethnic grievances.
“We have not ruled anything. It is possible,” he told the BBC on Monday, adding that the head of the 17,000-strong UN force of peacekeepers had arrived in the country to assess the situation.
“It is right to see this through the perspective of the United Nations,” Miliband said.
Miliband said that a political settlement is needed to maintain a fragile cease-fire, but that aid convoys must be protected.
The legislator was speaking as thousands of people fleeing the fighting in the Congo continued to cross back into rebel territory because they say conditions in refugee camps are intolerable.
Without food, water or sanitation in the camps, people have decided that it’s worth the risk of returning to their homes, even if the rebels raped and killed many people last week, residents of the ITN said Jonathan Miller, which is near the town of Goma.
Many of their villages have been looted and emptied of people by the rebels, they said.
Roads were filled with people returning to the rebel territory, carrying their belongings on their heads or on their backs.
However, others, fearing further violence, continued to flee their homes, centers of immense help.
A 12-vehicle convoy of the UN to help set off Monday, according to The Associated Press, to travel in the Congo territory from the rebels to help tens of thousands of people displaced by the fighting.
On Saturday, aid groups delivered food and water to a refugee camp north of Goma, who travel through a narrow “humanitarian corridor” to the rebels created in the wake of a ceasefire with government forces that the rebels announced on Wednesday.
Western diplomats shuttle between Goma – the scene of some of the worst fighting – and Kigali in neighboring Rwanda, to meet with the leaders, in order to get a peace process.
The ceasefire seems to be holding Sunday, but both sides appear to be mass troops near the ceasefire line.
Government soldiers flew from the capital Kinshasa and deployed in the jungle and the rebels were in force on their side of the line.
ITN reporter Miller heard intermittent gunfire from the hills that mark the line where the two sides are facing only a few hundred meters away. A small contingent of UN troops in the area was bullet-proof vests and helmets in the response.
Miller said it was not clear if the two sides were firing at each other.
The latest clashes on October 24, when Congolese rebels led by renegade Tutsi General Laurent Nkunda launched new attacks in the eastern province of North Kivu.
The fighting between the rebels of Nkunda and the Congolese regular army displaced thousands of civilians almost immediately, the United Nations said.
Many of the displaced fled to Goma, the capital of North Kivu on the border with Rwanda and Uganda.
Nkunda is the leader of the National Congress for the Defense of the People. His rebels declared a cease-fire late Wednesday after four days of fighting.
Over the weekend British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the international community can not allow Congo to become “another Rwanda, where 800,000 died during a 1994 genocide.
The fighting is based on ethnic grievances.
Nkunda said he was fighting to protect his Tutsi community from attacks by Hutu rebels from Rwanda.
During the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, the country of the majority Hutus killed 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus, according to the United Nations.
When the Tutsi came to power in Rwanda, many Hutus crossed the border in Congo. They were afraid to return to their homes, fearing that would be subject to retaliation by the Tutsi, so it remained in the jungles of eastern Congo, where they prey on local residents.
In May 2005, it was reported that Rwandan Hutu rebels in eastern Congo conducted hundreds of summary executions, rapes, beatings and abductions of civilians in the Congolese province of South Kivu, according to GlobalSecurity.org.
Nkunda, a Tutsi, has repeatedly blamed the Congolese government for failing to protect Tutsis from attacks by Hutus in Rwanda.