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Friday, 14 June, 2002, 13:50 GMT 14:50 UK
UN 'tourists' fail to halt DR Congo killings
UN monitors in DR Congo
UN monitors are struggling to contain the violence in the east

The United Nations Security Council has extended the term of the UN's military observer mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo by one year, but postponed a decision on whether to increase its strength.


The whole of eastern Congo is on fire

Monuc commander General Mountaga Diallo
The peacekeeping mission in DR Congo, known as Monuc, has come under increasing pressure in recent months from the Kinshasa government and many Congolese people, who argue that the blue helmets' mission should be increased, both in its personnel and its mandate.

At the moment Monuc has been allocated 5,500 peacekeepers, while its role is confined to observing the ceasefire between Kinshasa and its Rwandan and Ugandan-backed rebel opponents.

Child in Kindu hospital
DR Congo faces a huge humanitarian crisis
For the past year-and-a-half, the frontline has been largely peaceful, but behind it, in the rebel-controlled east, the security situation - always bad - has deteriorated in recent weeks.

"The whole of eastern Congo is on fire," reported General Mountaga Diallo, Monuc's force commander

'The Tourists'

In many of the flashpoints, UN military staff have been unable to do anything but watch as killings are carried out.

As a result, the Monuc peacekeepers are known simply as "the Tourists" on the streets of Kinshasa, while in the rebel-held city of Kisangani they are called the "Observers of Congolese Corpses".

Uganda backs MLC rebels, Rwanda backs RCD rebels
Uganda backs MLC rebels, Rwanda backs RCD rebels
Peaceful protests were held outside the UN building in Kinshasa on Thursday, as well as outside the British and United States embassies.

Protestors said they wanted the UN Security Council to take Congo's crisis seriously, and said Britain and America, who both have permanent seats on the Council, were pro-Rwandan and blocking the UN mission.

Both countries deny the charges, while Monuc argues that it can only carry out what the Security Council and the warring factions allow it.

On the question of the size of its mission - tiny compared to that of similar deployments in countries such as Sierra Leone - UN staff say that few foreign countries want to send their troops to serve as peacekeepers in Congo.

Decapitated

Criticism has increased since mid-May when rebel troops of the Rwandan backed Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) carried out the reprisal killing of some 200 dissident policemen, army officers and unarmed civilians, following an alleged mutiny by pro-Kinshasa soldiers.

Kisangani
UN monitors failed to prevent a recent massacre in Kisangani

Many of the victims' corpses were later found mutilated and decapitated in nearby rivers.

Monuc has more than 500 armed troops in Kisangani, but was unable to do anything about the massacre.

It is a similar situation elsewhere, where fighting has worsened since peace talks between DR Congo's internal warring parties broke down in failure in April.

The Kinshasa government was able to cut a power-sharing deal with the Movement for the Liberation of Congo, and some smaller factions, but the strongest group, the RCD returned home isolated, weakened and angry.

Sit and wait

Security analysts say Kinshasa has since stepped up its aid to Mai Mai militias and other anti-Rwandan groups operating in eastern DR Congo.

Unused port on the Congo river
Much of the country's infrastructure is shattered
Many RCD- and Rwandan-controlled towns in the east are now surrounded by these militias.

Fighting has worsened and the humanitarian situation in places such as Kindu, 500 km to the west of Goma, has become appalling.

Aid workers in the once-wealthy market and port town, say it is now impossible for people to leave town to get to their fields. Fighting is as close as four km away, while all routes in and out of Kindu have been cut.

Prices in the market have rocketed, while Monuc peacekeepers, like the other 200,000 residents of Kindu can only sit, watch and wait for things to get better.


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01 Jun 02 | Africa
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