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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 May, 2003, 06:39 GMT 07:39 UK
DR Congo force 'needs help'
Ugandan troops withdraw from DR Congo
The withdrawal of Ugandan troops left a power vacuum

The United Nations Security Council has been discussing sending more peacekeepers to help contain escalating ethnic violence in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Some officials have likened recent killings and racial tensions in the area to the start of the Rwandan genocide of 1994.

During the first day of talks on Monday, the head of UN peacekeeping operations, Jean-Marie Guehenno, warned that without decisive action there would be a bloodbath in Congo's Ituri province - between the Lendu majority and the Hema minority.

Militias from the two ethnic groups have been battling for control of the town of Bunia since Ugandan soldiers withdrew last week under a peace agreement.

There has been mounting criticism of the UN force, which has more than 600 troops in Bunia.

On Sunday, Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni, condemned the force (Monuc) as "dangerous tourists".

Troop reinforcements

Security Council President Munir Akram says that a final decision on what should be done in Congo is not expected to be reached until later this week.

DR CONGO'S WAR
Four years
Seven foreign armies
At least 2 million dead
Disease and abuses widespread

Council members have been discussing a range of options, from the reinforcement of the existing peacekeeping force in DR Congo, to the deployment of a small, but highly robust foreign force, acting with the UN's blessing.

Civilians have become caught up in the violence, and around 4,000 are sheltering at the town's airport, where a small deployment of some 700 lightly-armed UN peacekeepers are currently deployed.

Well-armed ethnic Hema fighters have taken control of Bunia having forced out Lendu militiamen who had been in control for the past week after a two-hour battle, say United Nations officials in the town.

In Kigali, the capital of neighbouring country Rwanda, a UN spokesman said on Monday that at least 30 people, including three babies and two priests, were killed in a weekend of ethnic clashes and widespread looting.




WATCH AND LISTEN
Jean Baptiste Dhetchuvi, UPC on Focus on Africa
"The town is now under our control"


BBC's Will Ross on Focus on Africa
"The refugees are laying the blame at the feet of the UN"



SEE ALSO:
Unease in volatile DR Congo town
02 May 03  |  Africa
DR Congo town 'volatile'
09 May 03  |  Africa
Fighting in DR Congo town
11 Apr 03  |  Africa
Uganda fears Congo vacuum
17 Apr 03  |  Africa


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