DR Congo + 2 more

U.N. alarmed by foreign troop buildup in Congo

KINSHASA, (Reuters) - The United Nations said on Saturday it was concerned about a buildup of foreign troops in northeastern Congo, where rebels have been accused of murder, cannibalism and rape despite a peace accord.
The spokesman for the U.N. Mission in Congo, Hamadoun Toure, said Uganda and Rwanda had sent troops into Kivu and Ituri, mineral-rich regions of Congo divided into an ever-shifting patchwork of rebel factions and armed bands.

Clashes in the northeast have persisted despite the peace deal signed last year to end four years of war that drew six armies into Africa's third-biggest country and left about two million people dead.

"These foreign forces are supposed to have left," Toure told Reuters in Kinshasa. "You can't leave the country and come back and fight."

Uganda and Rwanda entered Congo's war in 1998 to support rebels fighting to overthrow the Kinshasa government. But they fell out with each other and now back rival rebel factions struggling for control of the mineral-rich country.

Toure said the Rwandan-backed RCD-Goma (Rally for Congolese Democracy) rebel faction appeared to be planning an attack on the RCD-ML south of the important towns of Beni and Butembo. He said four Congolese army battalions were supporting the RCD-ML.

North of those towns, the United Nations said soldiers wearing Rwandan uniforms had been spotted in the Ituri region, where the UPC (Union of Congolese Patriots) that was once allied to Uganda has now turned to Rwanda.

Rebels in the area, inhabited by pygmies, have been accused of systematic cannibalism and rape during fighting in December.

A western diplomat in Kinshasa said that with Rwandan help, the UPC now appeared to be in a position to attack the Ugandans.

"There is a risk of slaughter in Ituri," he added. "Every time there is fighting, 90 percent of the victims are civilians."


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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