Thousands flee heavy fighting in Congo
Tens of thousands of people were reported to be fleeing heavy fighting in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo yesterday after rebels seized a key army base near the town of Goma.
At least 200,000 people have been displaced in eastern Congo in the last two months amid growing concern about a return to full-scale war. The UN, which has 17,000 peacekeepers in the country, most of them in the east, said yesterday that it had used helicopter gunships against the rebels, who have threatened to attack Goma.
It was also announced that the commander of UN peacekeepers in the country had resigned after only seven weeks in the job. Lieutenant General Vicente Diaz de Villegas of Spain "indicated that for personal reasons he will not be able to continue with his assignment", UN spokeswoman Michele Montas said.
The inability of the UN to stop the fighting in the mineral-rich yet desperately poor region is an increasing source of frustration for civilians who have been repeatedly displaced by rebel and army attacks since the official end of the war in 2003. Yesterday, thousands of demonstrators attacked the UN headquarters in Goma, smashing cars and office windows in a show of anger at the failure to protect civilians. The protesters hurled stones into four UN compounds, and UN military spokesman Samba Tall confirmed that one person had been killed. He added that the Goma was "well-protected" from a rebel offensive.