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Thursday, 17 October, 2002, 12:53 GMT 13:53 UK
DR Congo town fears assault
RCD rebels fleeing Uvira
The RCD lost control of Uvira over the weekend
Bukavu in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is tense after warnings of an assault from militia fighters.

Many shops are reported to be closed in the town which is held by the Rwandan-backed Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD).

Fighting is being reported on Thursday between Bukavu and the town of Uvira, which on Sunday fell to the Mai-Mai militia. They told the BBC's Great Lakes Service that they now have troops on the outskirts of Bukavu and intend to attack.

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The RCD and the Mai-Mai must not create the conditions to justify the return of foreign troops

UN's Amos Namanga Ngongi
There has been a resurgence of fighting in the east since Rwandan forces pulled out, prompting UN warnings that foreign troops may return.

On Thursday, Burundi President Pierre Buyoya said his country would defend itself against any possible security threat after thousands of refugees fled into Burundi from fighting around Uvira.

On Wednesday, Rwanda accused the authorities in DR Congo of using local Congolese militia as a smokescreen for their real allies - the Rwandan militia responsible for the 1994 genocide.

Rwanda says that most of the so-called Mai-Mai fighters who seized the Congolese town of Uvira at the weekend are in fact members of the former Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR) and Interahamwe militia - responsible for the 1994 genocide.

'Smokescreen'

So far, the UN says, more than 27,000 foreign soldiers, including more than 20,000 Rwandans, have left the country, in accordance with a peace accord signed in July.

The BBC's Helen Vesperini in Kigali quotes regional security sources as saying that more than 6,000 Interahamwe from two brigades known as Horizon and Tempete are deployed around Uvira and in the plain between Uvira and Bukavu, the provincial capital of South Kivu.

They say that several hundred Interahamwe took part in the fighting outside Bukavu two days ago, in an unsuccessful attempt to capture the city's airport.

Rwanda says it reserves the right to defend itself against the members of the former army and the Interahamwe.

Fears

The UN secretary general's special representative in DR Congo, Amos Namanga Ngongi, also expressed concern saying the fighting in the east may lead to a return of foreign troops.

Rwandan troops leave DR Congo
Crowds in Bukavu watch the Rwandans go earlier this month

"The Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) and the Mai-Mai must not create the conditions to justify the return of foreign troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo," Mr Ngongi said at a news conference.

He also denied Rwandan troops were present in the country, contrary to what the Kinshasa authorities had intimated on Monday.

The UN also appealed to the RCD-Goma to return to negotiations with the government on an end to hostilities.

The RCD suspended the talks on Monday, after Uvira was seized by the Mai-Mai.

A spokesman for the UN, Hamadoun Toure, told the BBC the talks had been close to reaching agreement when they were broken off.

An army team has now left Kinshasa for talks in South Africa, whose government is mediating the peace process.

Ethnic killings

Meanwhile, the human rights organisation, Amnesty International, has called for urgent action by the United Nations to halt what it says are mass killings and targeted rapes in north-eastern DR Congo.

The organisation says extremists are attempting to create ethnically-pure towns and villages in the Ituri region, where Hema and Lendu militias have been fighting one another.

Amnesty estimates that 50,000 people have been killed in the past three years and half-a-million forced to flee.

It says a larger number of UN monitors should be sent to Congo and they should more vigorously enforce their mandate.

This includes authority for action to protect civilians under imminent threat of violence.


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15 Oct 02 | Africa
03 Oct 02 | Africa
24 Sep 02 | Africa
19 Sep 02 | Africa
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