Peace holding in Congo

An uneasy calm has settled on the town of Bunia in eastern Congo following days of ethnic killings and looting as a ceasefire entered its second day Sunday.


    Congo still seeks a lasting peace


    Congolese President Joseph Kabila and militia groups signed the agreement on Friday in Tanzania to end violence between the rival Hema and Lendu communities. Hundreds of people have been killed in the past week in the violence, according to a United Nations estimate.


    A UN military observer said there was no shooting or fighting in Bunia, but the situation was tense. "Life is not fully normal, shops are still closed here and most of the people are still in hiding trying to remain safe, “ he said.


    On the first day of the ceasefire, residents said killings and kidnappings continued. On Sunday, the second day, however the only gunshots heard came from hills outside the town.


    The UN special envoy in the Democratic Republic of Congo told a news conference a reconnaissance team of French soldiers was due to arrive in the region on Monday. The troops are part of what could be a larger contingent of foreign troops to help quell the fighting.


    Aid for residents


    Across the street from the UN headquarters, Congolese medics and aid workers used the pause in fighting to treat the sick who crowded into a dimly lit makeshift hospital. But they were wary of further bloodshed.


    Humanitarian workers fanned out to collect bodies from the streets. At least two corpses were still rotting amid the market stalls, their bones strewn about by dogs.


    People tentatively began reoccupying the bullet-riddled buildings. Rows of shops displayed evidence of looting.


    Residents said Lendu militiamen had knocked holes through foot-thick walls and wooden doors and forced open steel gates. They grabbed goods from pharmacies, cloth shops and other stores owned by people from the minority Hema tribe, many of whom have fled.


    Aid workers have restored power and water and people ventured out of refugee camps UN peacekeepers have been protecting.


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