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UN gets the blame for fresh rebel offensive in eastern Congo

Video by Louis MASSIE , Audrey RACINE

Text by Louis MASSIE , AFP , Audrey RACINE

Latest update : 2008-10-28

Rebel forces loyal to Laurent Nkunda routed government troops in the Congo's east, prompting the sacking of the defence and interior ministers. Meanwhile, the Spanish commander for the UN mission in DRC resigned citing "personal reasons."

Congolese Tutsi insurgents advanced towards the strategic eastern
city of Goma on Monday after launching a new offensive at the
weekend, forcing thousands of civilians to flee, U.N. and local
officials said.

 

Local people angered by the fighting rioted at the U.N. base
in the town, and one person was killed, a U.N. spokesman said.

 

Fighters loyal to renegade General Laurent Nkunda overran an
army base on Sunday in Rumangabo on the main road north from
Goma, capital of North Kivu province, defying a U.N Security
Council call for them to lay down their arms.

 

Rebel rockets destroyed two armoured vehicles from the
U.N.'s peacekeeping mission, MONUC, during Sunday's clashes,
wounding several peacekeepers, a MONUC spokesman said.

 

Fighting resumed on Monday as Nkunda's National Congress for
the Defence of the People (CNDP) pushed the army out of a
battalion headquarters and attacked Kibumba village around 20 km
(12 miles) from Goma, a MONUC military source and the CNDP said.

 

"At 11 a.m. this morning we pushed government forces who are
fighting alongside Hutu rebels out of Kibumba and the Congolese
forces have shifted to Goma which is our next target," CNDP
spokesman Bertrand Bisimwa said by telephone.

 

"Over 10,000 people have been displaced by the fighting
between Saturday and today and we continue to urge those still
in the villages to avoid the fighting," he said.

 

The village chief of Kibumba, which is home to a camp that
humanitarian workers say normally shelters 20,000 people, said
both the village and the camp had emptied.

 

"All of the refugees and all of the inhabitants of Kibumba
have already fled. They are fighting over Kibumba now. I'm
heading to Goma on foot with my family," Jean-Claude Bamenya
told Reuters by telephone.

 

Gunshots were heard in the vicinity of Goma airport shortly
after sundown, a witness said.

 

"There are gunshots to the west of the airport in Goma
itself," she said. "It's not unheard of, but it's not usually
this much this early in the evening."

 

Christian aid agency World Vision said its staff visited
Kibumba on Monday and gunfire could be heard nearby.

 

 

U.N. BLAMED

 

One person was killed in protests outside MONUC headquarters
in Goma, U.N. military spokesman Colonel Samba Tall said.

 

A witness said stone-throwing demonstrators blamed the U.N.
peacekeepers for allowing Nkunda's rebels to rout the Congolese
government army, the FARDC.

 

MONUC's position was further weakened with the resignation
of force commander Lt. Gen. Vicente Diaz de Villegas, who quit
just seven weeks into the job. The UN said on Monday Diaz had
left his post for "personal reasons" and that Ghanaian Brig.
Gen. Ishmeel Ben Quartey would serve as acting commander.

 

The CNDP accuses Congo's army of collaborating with the
Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), which
includes Hutu militias and ex-Rwandan soldiers responsible for
Rwanda's 1994 genocide of Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

 

Resource watchdog Global Witness has said the Congolese army
and the FDLR are financing hostilities by running tin and gold
mines in Congo. Some 80 percent of Congolese tin ore comes from
North and South Kivu.

 

Around 100,000 civilians have fled their homes in North Kivu
since a January peace deal collapsed in August. Congo's
1998-2003 war and resulting humanitarian disaster have killed an
estimated 5.4 million people, most through hunger and disease.

Date created : 2008-10-28

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