Congo: January 28, 2005

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Yesterday, UN peacekeepers had seized four militia camps near Bunia (northeast Congo) and "demolished" the camps. Two of the camps were run by a splinter faction of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC-L). The UPC-L has emerged as a major troublemaker in the area. UN troops killed a UPC-L officer in a shootout north of Bunia and arrested two other militiamen. The rogue militias and "rebel" Congolese military units are preying on unprotected villages and have threatened relief workers. The rebel Congolese units are a particularly dicey problem. On January 20 representatives of the NGO Doctors Without Borders (DWB) said that had suspended aid operations in North Kivu province. For months NGOs and the UN have been continually reporting looting and violence in North Kivu. Doctors WIthout Borders is regarded as one of the "toughest" NGO organizations --meaning that DWB will keep its staff deployed in dangerous situations where other NGOs would pull out. However, DWB said that on January 18 "men in army uniforms" attacked their medical facility in the village of Kabati. The attackers took communications gear and one vehicle. The DWB report said that the Kabati facility was positioned to help people in the Masisi and Rutshuru districts. There are many refugees in this area --some of whom fled last months fighting in the town of Kanyabayonga. DWB still has what is described as a "mobile medical facility" in the town of Kayna. The fighting in Kanyabayonga was initially described as a "fight between regular Congolese army units." It later turned out that the units are former guerrilla forces and militia units that have (obviously) not been integrated into a national military force. It looks like the DWB medical team was pulled out because local "Congolese army units" are now little more than rogue forces. As we've noted before, there simply aren't enough UN peacekeepers and monitoring teams in the eastern Congo.


 

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