KINSHASA, Nov. 18 (Xinhua) -- Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) President Joseph Kabila has named general Didier Etumba his military chief of staff apparently in a bid to boost the army's morale in the clash with Tutsi rebels in the eastern province of North Kivu.
Kabila sacked general Dieudonne Kayembe on Monday evening and named his navy chief to the post after the army fell back in the face of advance by rebel National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) led by renegade Tutsi general Laurent Nkunda.
Etumba, a graduate of the Belgian Royal Military School, was a senior military officer under the regime of former Zairean President Marechal Mobutu. When Kabila came to power in January 2001, Etumba became his security and defense advisor.
Etumba, who came from the country's northwestern province Equator, became well known for political talks with opposition parties before promoted to head the military information sector. He was then named the navy chief.
Despite a flurry of international diplomacy to end the conflict in the West African country, fighting is still going on and off in North Kivu with both sides claiming military headway on the ground.
Charles Kasereka, interior minister of North Kivu, told reporters on Monday in the provincial capital of Goma that the FARDC (government forces) took control of the strategic area of Kanyabayonga, where the army fought rebels on Sunday. The CNDP also said that they had got the upper hand at Rwindi.
Continued fighting was reported in defiance of a series of international mediation, the latest by UN special envoy Olusegun Obasanjo.
The former Nigerian president met with Nkunda in Jomba on Sunday, saying Nkunda had pledged to respect the ceasefire if not attacked.
The rebel leader unilaterally called a ceasefire on Oct. 29 at the gate of Goma amid international calls for a halt of violence. But the fragile truce soon collapsed with the rival sides exchanging accusations, blaming each other for renewed bloodshed.
British Minister of State for Africa Lord Mark Malloch Brown, who is in the country on a three-day peace mission, said on Monday that a durable solution lies in the reinforcement of the MONUC.
UN officials have said that the UN Security Council hopes to vote this week on a resolution that would boost the MONUC from the current 17,000 troops to nearly 20,000 to help avert a repeat of the 1998-2003 war.
Fighting resumed in August after the government and the rebels signed a UN-brokered deal in January in Goma. The renewed conflict has displaced 250,000 people and threatened the stability of the Great Lakes region in Africa.