Thousands flee fresh DRC violence

Thousands flee fresh DRC violence

Congolese soldier in the east

DR Congo’s army is trying to contain a rebellion in the east

Some 28,000 displaced people are on the move in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo after rebel forces attacked nearby army positions, the UN has said.

"They’re packed onto the road carrying whatever they can," said Aya Shneerson of the UN World Food Programme in Goma.

The Congolese military said it repelled the dawn raids on targets in Nord Kivu province which provoked the exodus.

The army blamed the attacks on troops loyal to Gen Laurent Nkunda, but the rebels denied they were responsible.

Some 370,000 people have fled three-way clashes this year between the Congolese armed forces (FARDC), the ethnic Tutsi forces of renegade Gen Nkunda and the ethnic Hutu Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

Many of the displaced villagers had taken refuge in a string of camps outside Goma, close to the border with Rwanda.

Potential threat

Correspondents say Gen Nkunda has repeatedly failed to live up to promises to integrate his men into the FARDC, under the terms of previous peace deals, arguing that he is defending the Congolese Tutsis, known as the Banyamulenge, from ethnic cleansing.

Renegade Congolese Tutsi General, Laurent Nkunda

Gen Nkunda says he is protecting the Tutsis from attack by the Hutus

He has also alleged that the FDLR – made up mainly of Hutus who fled into DR Congo after the 1994 Rwandan genocide – was fighting alongside the Congolese army, a claim the army denies.

At the weekend, the governments of Rwanda and the DR Congo agreed in talks in the Kenyan capital to disarm the FDLR – by force if necessary – in what is seen by the Rwandans as a "change of attitude".

The Congolese government in Kinshasa now considers the FDLR (an amalgamation of former Rwandan armed forces and Interahamwe militia) "a genocidal military organisation in the DR Congo", said a joint statement.

The statement said the DR Congo would "launch military operations, as a matter of urgency, to dismantle the ex-FAR/Interahamwe" .

"I witnessed a change in attitude and language on the part of Congolese officials. There seems to be a new resolve to deal with the FDLR problem," Rwandan Foreign Minister Charles Murigande told a news conference in Kigali.

On Monday he told the BBC that disarming the FDLR would be a "quantum leap towards peace, security and stability".

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