congo---thousands flee rebels

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    Monday, 23 December, 2002, 15:11 GMT
    Thousands flee DR Congo rebels

    Thousands of civilians have been displaced in DR Congo

    At least 60,000 people have fled villages in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, as rebels advance on the town of Beni.
    The head of the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC, Hamadoun Toure, urged the rebels of the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) and Liberation Movement of Congo (MLC) to heed the truce and stop their military operation.

    As observers, there is not a lot we can do

    Hamadoun Toure

    Last week, the RCD, the MLC, the Congolese Government and the political opposition signed a deal to end the four-year war which has led to the deaths of some two million people in DR Congo.

    Rwanda has withdrawn its many thousands of troops from DR Congo, following an agreement signed in July.

    At the height of the conflict, there were some 50,000 foreign troops involved in the what was dubbed "Africa's first world war".

    Human rights

    Mr Toure said that at least 60,000 people had left their villages close to Beni, seeking refuge nearby.

    He said he had also received reports of human rights violations.

    He said that the rebels had already captured the towns of Mambasa, Komanda and Teturi, and that they were now only 30km from Beni.

    "All should be done to stop the military operation," he told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

    There are currently some 5,000 UN peacekeepers in DR Congo, but they do not have a mandate to intervene in the fighting.

    "As observers, there is not a lot we can do," Mr Toure said.

    But he said that he was appealing to the rebels to respect the truce.

    "They signed the Pretoria agreement to end the conflict in the DRC, so there is not a worse time to start fresh fighting than now," he said.

    "We are witnessing increased fighting between the Congolese themselves, which we cannot understand," he said.


    Only last week, the two rebel movements said that the accord would mean that fighting stopped.

    "It is good news for peace in DRC," MLC leader Jean-Pierre Bemba said.

    "I urge the international community to help in the implementation of this accord so that the signatories do not evade their commitment," he added.

    The MLC has been supported by Uganda

    And the RCD said the agreement spelt the end of the war.

    "Now nobody can go back to war. Ever," Azarias Ruberwa said.

    Congolese Information Minister Kikaya Bin Karubi said that the peace deal meant that a peace-keeping force was no longer necessary.

    Under last week's deal, Congolese President Joseph Kabila will stay in his post for two years, but rebel forces and the political opposition will be given government portfolios, including three of the four vice presidential posts.

    The two main rebel groups, the RCD and the MLC, will each have one vice president, as will the political opposition and supporters of Mr Kabila.

    Ministerial posts will also be divided equally between these four blocks until multi-party elections are held in two years' time.

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