DR Congo

DR Congo: Government troops "on the rampage"

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GISENYI, RWANDA , 30 October 2008 (IRIN) - While much of the criticism over the sharp escalation of violence in North Kivu has been levelled at troops loyal to renegade general Laurent Nkunda, on the night of 29 October, government troops reportedly went on the rampage in Goma.

"Last night I was in my home with my family," Stuart, a resident who fled to Gisenyi in Rwanda, told IRIN. "Government troops were shooting outside, in the street, all over the neighbourhood. They were shooting heavy guns and breaking into people's houses, and killing people, and looting; I saw them. It felt like anarchy, there was no law," he said.

"The situation is very bad. When you see Congolese people fighting other Congolese people and looting their homes it is very frightening. My family aren't safe. I couldn't bring them with me because I don't have the means, I can't afford to accommodate them if I bring them all across.

"This is very much the worst it's been in the last 10 years, even during the war, I've never been this scared," said Stuart.

There were reports of killings and other atrocities. "A family of six people was killed by soldiers, a man and his two sons were beaten and there were also cases of looting and rape," Jason Luneno, head of Goma's civil society, told IRIN.

John, another Goma resident, said he had seen soldiers "fleeing in disarray, some in tanks, some in requisitioned civilian vehicles". He also witnessed tens of thousands of displaced coming in from villages where there had been fighting.

The following day, however, the town was eerily calm and empty. "We don't know what's happened to the displaced population because everyone went their own way," said Ibrahima Coly, head of the UN Refugee Agency's Goma office.

He said some 30,000 displaced people (IDPs) had arrived the previous day at an established IDP camp in Goma but quickly fled again as panic spread across the town. "This [30 October] morning the town was deserted, shops are closed."

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