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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 February, 2005, 22:11 GMT
Thousands flee DR Congo violence
By Arnaud Zajtman
BBC News, Kinshasa

A Congolese soldier with a gun
Unicef says 70,000 people have fled the latest violence
Tens of thousands of people have been displaced by recent violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo's north-east region of Ituri.

People are fleeing the resumption of activities of ethnic-based militia groups in the area.

It is a war with no armies, where civilians are the main victims.

In the latest reported incident about two weeks ago, 70 small villages were stormed in the vast fertile mountains of Che, near the border with Uganda.

Fragile equilibrium

Thousands of inhabitants are now again on the move to avoid being targeted by militia groups.

The UN children's agency, Unicef, said it had counted 70,000 newly displaced people.

More than 50 civilians were killed in the violence.

The inter-ethnic war has been raging in this mineral-rich region since 1999, when the fragile ethnic equilibrium was disrupted by the invasion of the Ugandan army.

Since the withdrawal of the Ugandan forces in 2002, 3,000 UN peacekeepers have been deployed in north-eastern DR Congo.

They have managed to secure the main towns of the area.

But in the bush, which used to be Congo's bread basket, armed militia men are still looting, burning and killing civilians of other ethnic groups.

Neither the Congolese government nor the UN seem able to bring an end to this conflict, which has already claimed an estimated 50,000 lives.

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