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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 May, 2003, 11:56 GMT 12:56 UK
Eyewitness: Bunia's bloodshed
By Andrew Harding
BBC, Bunia, Democratic Republic of the Congo

The only word for what's happened here is butchery.

Injured civilians
Hundreds of civilians have been injured
In Bunia's cramped hospital, the survivors are lined up on the floor, hundreds of people cleaved by machetes.

Machete cuts and multiple bullet wounds can be seen everywhere.

It is a miracle that many of these people are still here to tell their story.

Some of them are too traumatised to speak, having seen their children slashed or killed before their very eyes.

Farmer Basil Uzelo struggles to tell us that he is the only one left from his family of six.

His throat was slit, but somehow he survived.

"If you can, tell the world to send troops" he says, "to bring peace by force".

But the outside world is not listening yet.

A small team of United Nations military observers is more or less besieged inside its own compound.

They are powerless to stop the butchery outside, and are desperate for reinforcements.

Drugged and dangerous

Most of the UN's Uruguayan force seem to be out of touch and outnumbered.

They have been heavily criticised for not doing more to stop the killing.

Child soldiers
The militias recruit child soldiers

But they say this criticism is unfair.

Although they have not been able to stop the bloodshed, they claim their presence has prevented more widespread killing.

"Trouble can start at any moment here" says the French commander.

"There are two ethnic militias vying for control of the town here and we're completely at their mercy".

Child soldiers are also much in evidence around Bunia, many of them drugged, all of them dangerous.

These fighters are not about to surrender power peacefully.

"Its not up to foreigners to bring security here - we can take care of that," says one.

One 19-year-old fighter tells us his AK47 is for the protection of others.

Genocide

But civilians are being targeted in this conflict as rival militia, the Hemas and the Lendus, attempt to exterminate members of the opposing community.

The situation in town is extremely tense.

Lendu militiaman near Bunia
Militia leaders oppose French intervention

The UN are clearly visible, but right next to them are very well armed rebel troops who are threatening to reignite this war.

The talk now is of deploying a stronger international force, disarming the warring factions and establishing a lasting peace.

But at the moment talk is all it is.

The French want to take a leading role, but the militia are opposed to any intervention.

They believe that France supports their enemy, the DR Congo Government.

In the meantime, the plight of civilians worsens.

There is no clean water, no sanitation, and no food for the children.

Thousands are crammed around the UN complex, it is too dangerous to be anywhere else.

There are all the ingredients of genocide here in eastern DR Congo.

Now the international community has to decide whether its ready to come in and prevent this happening. .


SEE ALSO:
Fresh atrocities in DR Congo
21 May 03  |  Africa
In pictures: Congo mayhem
19 May 03  |  Photo Gallery
Country profile: Democratic Republic of Congo
26 Apr 03  |  Country profiles


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