Congo: violence continues despite ceasefire

Killings and kidnappings continued on Saturday despite the signing of a ceasefire accord between Joseph Kabila, the Congolese President, and armed groups fighting for the town of Bunia in eastern Congo.

    Ceasefire has taken affect but
    residents complain violence has
    yet to stop

    Violence in and around Bunia between militias linked to rival Hema and Lendu communities was estimated by the United Nations to have claimed the lives of hundreds of people in the past week.


    Colonel Daniel Vollot, the local commander of UN troops, told the Reuters news agency the truce that took effect at midnight (2200 GMT Friday) would be difficult to implement.


    "On the ground it will be very difficult. In the past what I have seen is that every day we have an agreement, the next day we have war," Vollot told Reuters.


    Resident Claude Watum said there had been renewed violence after the deadline. "The ceasefire exists only on paper. In practice the killings and kidnaps continue," he said.


    After meeting members of five armed groups in Tanzania, Kabila signed an agreement binding all signatories to cease hostilities, to demilitarise Bunia and to allow the deployment of an international intervention force.
    The agreement also pledged not to allow any more foreign involvement in the fighting in Bunia.
    France may send troops

    Rwanda and Uganda have been accused of backing some of the armed groups embroiled in the fighting, which started when Uganda pulled its own troops out. Neither country signed the agreement.
    About three million people have died since Congo's civil war began in 1998, mostly civilians killed by hunger or disease. Several African states entered the war on different sides. 

    A multi-national peacekeeping
    force may soon be deployed

    Other ceasefires have been signed during the course of the war yet fighting and massive human rights abuses have continued in the eastern Ituri region (of which Bunia is part).


    Meanwhile, the Congelese Foreign Minister, She Okitundu, welcomed a "decision in principle" by France to contribute to a UN force to try to quell the bitter ethnic uprising in Ituri.
    The United Kingdom too is considering contributing to the UN force.  "We can confirm that the UN has asked the UK to participate in an emergency international peacekeeping force,"  a UK foreign office spokesman said in London.


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