Page last updated at 15:44 GMT, Thursday, 27 November 2008

Congolese flee rebels for Uganda

Woman cries in DR Congo refugee camp after being mobbed for her food aid
This woman was mobbed after being given aid in a refugee camp

Some 13,000 people have fled into Uganda from a rebel advance in the Democratic Republic of Congo in just two days, the UN refugee agency says.

Some of those who crossed the border said their relatives had been killed by the rebels of General Laurent Nkunda.

His forces declared a ceasefire last week but say this does not apply to operations against foreign militia and they are now attacking Rwandan Hutus.

Earlier, the EU was urged to send forces to stop the DR Congo fighting.

Sixteen former top officials and world leaders sent a letter to EU heads of state, saying they were best placed to intervene because it would take too long for the UN to send reinforcements.

One of those who signed the letter, former UN humanitarian chief Jan Egeland, told the BBC that the world was not doing more because of "inbuilt discrimination when it comes to Africa".

Some 250,000 people have fled their homes because of the recent upsurge of fighting in eastern DR Congo.


The UNHCR said that 10,000 people had arrived in Uganda on Thursday alone.

"The stream of new arrivals continues. More and more people are arriving and we need to transport them away from the border to a safe place immediately," said the UNHCR's Yumiko Takashima, reports the AFP news agency.

CNDP: Gen Nkunda's Tutsi rebels - 6,000 fighters
FDLR: Rwandan Hutus - 6-7,000
Mai Mai: pro-government militia - 3,500
Monuc: UN peacekeepers - 6,000 in North Kivu, including about 1,000 in Goma (17,000 nationwide)
DRC army - 90,000 (nationwide)
Source: UN, military experts

They have been arriving in Ishasha about 50km (35 miles) north-east of the rebel-held town of Rutshuru but they are to be moved away from the border.

The UN this month said it would send an extra 3,000 troops to DR Congo, on top of the 17,000 already there - the world's largest peacekeeping force.

But Mr Egeland said this was not enough for DR Congo, which is almost the size of western Europe.

He referred to diplomatic peace efforts as a "seminar".

"There was not this indecisiveness in the Balkans, Iraq or the wider Middle East," the former UN aid chief told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

Gen Nkunda's Tutsi-dominated forces say they are attacking Rwanda Hutu fighters, some of whom are accused of taking part in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in which some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered.

The UN has accused all sides of mass killings and rape in the latest fighting which resumed in August, with rebels advancing on the regional capital, Goma.

"To those of us who have worked on such issues for some time, current events bring back painful memories of Rwanda and Srebrenica," reads the letter, also signed by the former leaders of the Czech Republic (Vaclav Havel), South Africa (FW de Klerk), Ireland (Mary Robinson) and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu and sent to EU heads of state.

"It is increasingly clear that the EU is best placed - through its standing battle groups - to play this role and deploy now," they wrote.

'Mass grave'

On Wednesday, the Congolese government rejected an offer from India to supply extra peacekeeping troops.

They already account for about a quarter of the UN force in DR Congo, known as Monuc.

A displaced woman next to a UN armoured vehicle near Goma on Tuesday 11 November 2008
The UN force in DR Congo is its largest mission in the world

A government spokesman refused to give reasons why the Indian offer was declined.

An estimated five million people died in the DR Congo conflict, which officially ended in 2003.

But some say the root cause of that war - the presence of Rwandan Hutu rebels in DR Congo - was never addressed.

"The DR Congo is the greatest loss of life at our watch," Mr Egeland said.

The UN says it is investigating reports that a mass grave containing 2,000 skeletons has been discovered in Bukavu, south of Goma, according to the AFP news agency.

Justice Minister Luzolo Bambi said the graves had been found on land previously owned by the RCD former rebel group, reports the AP news agency.

The RCD has told the BBC it has no links to the alleged graves.

UN spokesman Madnodje Monouba said it was investigating whether the bones were of animal or human origin.

Map of eastern DR Congo

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