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Africa

2003-09-05

AFRICA/DEMOCRATIC CONGO - AT LAST EMPOWERED TO PROTECT CIVILIANS AND STOP FIGHTING BETWEEN REBEL GROUPS NEW UN MISSION DEPLOYED: BUT SOME WONDER WHY MOST ARE NON-FRENCH SPEAKING SOLDIERS

Bunia (Fides Service) – “So far all the UN peacekeepers have done is to go on a fact-finding mission to Fataki” local sources in Bunia, main city of Ituri in Northern Congo, tell Fides Service. “UN Mission troops MONUC went to Fataki about 100 km from Bunia to see the conditions of security in the area in view of a stable contingent of UN peacekeepers” the local sources say. “MONUC troops are also expected in Kpandroma (70 km from Bunia) to supervise the disarmament of Lendu militants”.
“In Fataki there are at least 5,000 displaced persons in need of urgent assistance. In that area, in the last few weeks at least 200 people were killed in conflict between different factions fighting for control of the zone”.
Given the difficult situation, the United Nations has granted broader scope to the new MONUC mission, since the previous small UN force had neither power nor means to prevent massacres in Bunia and the surrounding Ituri region which took place at the beginning of the year. In May, at the request of the UN, the European Union sent ARTEMIS peace keeping force, which was replaced recently, September 1, with a new MONUC mission with more power. This new contingent of 2,500 men come from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Uruguay, and it can deploy outside Bunia and use force to stop fighting between the various militia groups in the region and protect civilians.
“The new MONUC mandate has given people new hope, especially villagers in Ituri harassed by continuous sacking and looting” Fides Sources say. “Now it is time for words to be followed by facts and the troops must show they are able to do their job. It is a bit perplexing to see that the men are not from French-speaking Africa, which makes communication with local people difficult. ”.
For years Ituri has been in the grip of civil war involving various local armed groups supported by different neighbouring countries interested in exploiting the riches of the area. Ituri is in fact rich in gold, coltan (used for cell telephones ) uranium and oil (still to be exploited).
Since 1999 at least 50,000 people have been killed in the war, including some priests. On May 7 Fr. Raphaël Ngona was murdered at his home. On 11 May guerrilla groups killed two priests whose mutilated bodies were found in the parish buildings in Nyakasanza along with those of 48 other persons who had taken refuge there They were parish priest Father François Xavier Mateso and Father Aimé Ndjabu. (L.M.) )(Agenzia Fides 5/9/2003 lines 35 words 459)

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