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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 December 2004, 09:49 GMT
Rwandophones and roadblocks in DR Congo
By Arnaud Zajtman
BBC, Kivu, eastern DR Congo

Civilians are on the move as fighting restarts
Fleeing clashes has become a way of life for many

Hundreds of people are fleeing renewed fighting in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Fighting has restarted between pro-Kinshasa soldiers and former Rwandan-backed rebels.

The alleged presence of Rwandan troops in the country has upset the fragile peace that existed between the two sides.

Now, civilians are on the move, carrying their goods on their heads and their children in their arms.

Some of the villages are completely deserted by the civilian population.

People have to pass roadblocks, controlled by drunk soldiers, who work under the orders of the former Rwandan-backed rebels, and it is not always easy to get through these roadblocks.

Treating the wounded

On the side of the road, I saw two women.

One of them was carrying a cross made of two pieces of wood.

The other one a baby on her back, her one-year-old daughter - dead.

At Kirotshe hospital, I find a 12-year-old boy called Jean, who had joined the army a month ago despite DR Congo's commitment not to enrol children in the army.

Jean mistakenly shot himself in the foot as he was handling his new Kalashnikov.

His parents did not know he had joined the army. But when he is better, he wants to go back to school.

Battle

In the hospital, a soldier moaned on his hospital bed as two doctors tried to save his life.

He had received a bullet in the chest, near the heart, during Saturday's fighting.

Doctors work hard to save this soldier's life
Doctors work hard to save this soldier's life
Fighting erupted when soldiers, under the orders of the former Rwandan-backed rebels, stormed a battalion of about 500 pro-Kinshasa soldiers who had taken control of this area.

Several houses have been looted and the victims of the looting blame the Rwandan-backed rebels.

They call these soldiers Rwandophones, because they speak Kinyarwanda, the language spoken in Rwanda.

Camp

A few kilometres away, I found the camp of Colonel Franck Djager, one of these so-called "Rwandaphones".

Colonel Franck Djager has seen his troops flee
Colonel Franck Djager has seen his troops desert
His binoculars in hand and a small monkey on his lap, Colonel Djager looked quite relaxed.

"A good number of my troops have revolted against myself and against the military command of north Kivu. So I had to defend myself.

"Some of my soldiers were not happy with my command, they accused me of being in favour of Rwanda. But this is the Congolese army. These are all soldiers of the Congolese army. As for the looting that took place in the area, they were not committed by soldiers under my command," he said.

UN in sight

We enter into southern Kivu, joined by thousands of civilians who have fled fighting to go to Minova.

A soldier on patrol in eastern DRC
The army are trying to regain control of the area
But I couldn't proceed to the town as my car was stoned.

I had arrived at the same time as a UN patrol, the first UN patrol I had seen all day, and it quickly fled.

There are only a few thousand peacekeepers trying to protect an area the size of western Europe.

People in Minova blame the UN, Rwanda and foreigners in general for doing either too much to provoke or too little to stop renewed violence in their region.

They are also fed up that more than a year after a peace deal was signed, they are still going through small individual tragedies which altogether make up the huge humanitarian disaster that is DR Congo.




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