30 October, 2008

From Bad to Worse...

Things continue to deteriorate...

(from BBC):

Chaos erupts in major Congo city

There are reports of chaotic scenes in Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as police try to arrest soldiers whom the UN says seem out of control.

UN radio says nine people were shot amid gunfire and looting. A BBC reporter saw a body with bullet wounds.

The UN says it is very concerned about the humanitarian situation of the tens of thousands of people who have been fleeing a rebel advance on Goma.

The UN Security Council urged the rebel leader to implement his ceasefire.

An emergency session of the council also expressed alarm over cross-border firing between DR Congo and Rwanda.

Many of the population that have fled are staying in vacant schools, in churches and outside
Unicef's Jaya Murthy Tutsi rebel CNDP leader Laurent Nkunda, whose forces are just outside Goma, declared a ceasefire on Wednesday night and urged others to do the same.

The Security Council took no action on a request from the country's mission head, Alan Doss, for temporary reinforcements but said some of its peacekeepers could be redeployed from elsewhere in DR Congo to back up those in Goma.

Goma resident Tawite Anthony told the BBC the city was extremely tense and some people were fleeing to Rwanda.

"Everybody's afraid of the wars. They are fearing what will happen next," he said.

The BBC's Thomas Fessy in Goma says there was shooting overnight and shops were looted by soldiers.

The UN children's agency Unicef said the latest bout of fighting had produced a very bad humanitarian situation.

"We're talking tens of thousands of people who have fled towards Goma and thousands more who are fleeing north to a town called Kane Byunga," Unicef's Jaya Murthy told the BBC's World Today programme.

"Many of the population that have fled are staying in vacant schools, in churches and outside."

Thousands of displaced people have been fleeing

Earlier UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for an immediate end to the fighting, which he said was creating a "humanitarian catastrophe".

Mr Ban said he deplored the deliberate targeting of civilians and their use as human shields and said UN peacekeepers were "doing everything possible to protect civilians and fulfil their mandate in untenable circumstances".

Correspondents say the 17,000-strong UN force in DR Congo - the world's largest - is stretched to breaking point.

Gen Nkunda told the BBC the goal of his forces was to protect his Tutsi community from attack by Rwandan Hutu rebels, some of whom are accused of taking part in the 1994 genocide.

A peace deal was signed in Goma between the government and various rebel groups at the end of January.

Although he signed the deal, Gen Nkunda has refused to disarm while Rwandan Hutu rebels still operate in the area.