Protests against UN intensify in Congo

Protests against UN forces in Congo intensify as renegade commanders pledge to withdraw their troops from a strategic city.

    UN convoys have been stoned for peacekeepers' 'inaction'

    Protests against UN peackeepers broke out in cities across the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Thursday, leaving two dead in the capital a day after renegade troops captured the eastern town of Bukavu.

    DRC President Joseph Kabila criticised the UN mission, known as MONUC, telling France's Le Monde newspaper that "despite its arms and its mandate, the UN mission did not avert the
    fall of Bukavu".

    MONUC had hundreds of troops in Bukavu, capital of Sud-Kivu
    province, when it fell to army officers drawn from a former rebel group.

    "There are demonstrations against MONUC in Kinshasa, Kisangani, Lubumbashi and Kindu," Sebastien Lapierre, MONUC's spokesman in Bukavu, told AFP.

    The US embassy in Kinshasa warned its citizens "to stay indoors and remain vigilant due to current hostilities".

    Offices attacked

    Residents threw stones at UN vehicles and threatened to lynch workers in the Kadugu neighbourhood, which was especially targeted by the renegade soldiers.

    Three other UN compounds in different cities have also been attacked.

    UN Military Chief of Staff Colonel Clive Mantell said crowds of civilians attacked UN offices in the central town of Kindu and the southern mining centre of Lubumbashi.

    Other UN staff said compound guards shot and killed two looters who attacked a supply warehouse in Kinshasa, and protesters were trying to enter a compound in the northeastern city of Kisangani.

    Promised withdrawal

    Potentially defusing a crisis that has threatened renewed civil war, renegade General Laurent Nkunda, whose forces had earlier captured Bukavu, said he has already ordered 300 of his soldiers to leave the city, 1500km northeast of Kinshasa, on Thursday.

    The remaining troops should begin leaving at 13:00 GMT.

    "We shall withdraw to reorganisation centres to assure the transitional government that we are not opposed to it," Nkunda said.

    "We are just opposed to the persecution of one section of the Congolese community." 
      
    Bukavu in focus

    Nkunda and Colonel Jules Mutebutsi, former Congolese rebels who were briefly commanders in the new army, ordered their troops to take Bukavu, a Congolese town on the border with Rwanda, on Wednesday.

    Complaining that the regional military commander assigned by the government was mismanaging security, the two accused Brigadier General Mbuza Mabe of persecuting members of the Banyamulenge community.
      
    UN officials estimate that Nkunda has between 2000 and 4000 troops, while Mutebutsi controls several hundred fighters. 
      

    Congo has known little peace in
    recent decades

    Residents of Bukavu complained on Thursday that the renegade troops looted homes and raped women during their first night controlling a strategic eastern city.

    UN medical workers at a clinic treated three women - including a 15-year-old and a pregnant woman - for severe injuries after being raped early on Thursday.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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