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Friday, 19 January, 2001, 19:42 GMT
Fighting flares in eastern Congo
Lendu pastoralist
Tension over land distribution has led to conflict
Fifty-nine people have been killed when Lendu tribesman attacked Bunia in north eastern Congo.

Humanitarian sources say that the raid took place early on Friday, when the Lendu struck a Ugandan military training camp three km from Bunia town.

The attack appears to be a part of the ongoing conflict between the Hema pastoralists and the Lendu agriculturists in the region.

Over the last month there has been a flare-up of fighting between the groups, with about 5,000 Hema fleeing in to Uganda to escape Lendu raids.

Uganda targetted

The sources said that Friday's attack was partly aimed at sabotaging a Ugandan gunship which had been used to break up clashes between the Lendu and the Hema over the past few weeks.

During the raid, Hema living in Bunia reportedly armed themselves with new machetes out of fear that they could be targeted by vengeful Lendu living in the town.

Map showing Bunia
The last reports out of Bunia said that the town was calm but the Ugandan military this afternoon was still unwilling to comment on the situation.

Bunia has been in political turmoil since last year.

At that time, the vice president of the rebel group based there, the Congolese Rally for Democracy, tried to overthrow the leader Professor Wamba dia Wamba. The Ugandans have been in control since then.

Absence of leadership

But there has been a political and administrative vacuum with both rebel factions continuing to accuse each other and the Ugandans of deliberately fanning the Hema-Lendu conflict

The already tense situation has been complicated by the recent merger by Ugandan backed rebel groups. Bunia now falls under the juristiction of the newly formed Congloese Liberation Front.

But Wamba has refused to recognise its authority and has tried unsuccessfully this week to return to Bunia.

The assassination of President Laurent Kabila has only further muddled an already complicated situation.

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See also:

05 Jan 01 | Africa
Congo's forgotten war
18 Jan 01 | Africa
Congo rebels consider response
18 Dec 00 | Africa
Regional clashes in DR Congo
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