Saturday, June 05, 2004

More chaos in DR Congo

More chaos in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on Thursday, as though the condemned people of that country haven't suffered enough in the last hundred years. It started when renegade soldiers captured the eastern city of Bukavu. The UK paper The Independent reported that More than 2,000 dissident troops swept past United Nations peace-keepers to seize the lakeside city on Congo's eastern border, after a week of sporadic fighting. Government defenders "fled for the hills", a UN spokesman said, as UN troops tried to contain looting rebels. This is a serious threat to the massive country's precarious peace process. Now the fall of Bukavu has raised fears of a fresh war, Congo's third since 1996.

In the capital Kinshasa, on the other side of the country, In the capital, Kinshasa, a city of some 2.8 million people, demonstrators thronged the streets, shutting down schools and businesses, and erected barricades. Large crowds of students hurled stones at the MONUC [UN peacekeeping mission] headquarters in the city, reports the UN's IRIN news service. Thursday’s nationwide riots followed an appeal by DRC President Joseph Kabila for citizens to rise against Mutebusi's men, who, he said, had received Rwandan government aid... However, in Kigali, Rwandan Foreign Minister Charles Muligande has denied his nation's involvement. "We have no forces in the DRC. I think the Congolese authorities have not been able to handle the rebellion within the army and are trying to use Rwanda as a scapegoat," he said.

Though it's worth noting Rwanda invaded the DRC in the mid-90s and denied that fact until clashes erupted between their soldiers and Ugandan troops, who'd also invaded.

Incidentally, 2.8 million is a huge demonstration considering Kinshasa's population is estimated to be between 6 and 7 million.

On Friday, the renegade forces claimed to have withdrawn from Bukavu but UN officials said this was not the case. The BBC added They were meant to have withdrawn by Friday evening, but a UN spokesman said renegade fighters remained in the area.


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