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|| DARFUR ARCHIVES|
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|November 3, 2008|
"Everybody is hungry, everybody," said Jean Bizy, 25, a teacher, who watched with envy as the U.N. convoy stopped to deliver a sack of potatoes to U.N. troops in Rugari. Bizy said he has been surviving on wild bananas for days.
Rebel leader Laurent Nkunda went on the offensive Aug. 28 and brought his fighters to the edge of Goma last week before declaring a unilateral cease-fire.
The conflict is fueled by festering ethnic hatred left over from Rwanda's 1994 genocide and Congo's civil wars from 1996-2002. Nkunda claims the Congolese government has not protected ethnic Tutsis from the Rwandan Hutu militia that escaped to Congo after helping slaughter a half-million Rwandan Tutsis. All sides are believed to fund fighters by illegally mining Congo's vast mineral riches, giving them no financial interest in stopping the fighting.
Tens of thousands of people in Kibati have received little food aid since they fled their homes a week ago. Fernandez said families here have been forced to move four or five times in the past 10 days. "They go around in circles ... fleeing the movement of troops and the lines of combat," she said. Since Thursday, streams of refugees have thronged the roads around Goma trying to get home, lugging babies and bundles of belongings, guiding children, pigs and goats. To ease food shortages, rebels on Monday allowed farmers to reach Goma in trucks packed with cabbages, onions and spinach.
Nkunda began a low-level insurgency in 2004, claiming Congo's transition to democracy had excluded the Tutsi ethnic group. Despite agreeing in January to a U.N.-brokered cease-fire, he resumed fighting in August.
Nkunda wants direct talks with the government. He has especially complained about a $9 billion agreement in which China gets access to Congo's valuable minerals in return for building a highway and railroad.
Nkunda's rebellion has threatened to re-ignite the back-to-back wars that afflicted Congo from 1996 to 2002, drawing in a half dozen African nations. Congo President Joseph Kabila, elected in 2006 in Congo's first election in 40 years, has struggled to contain the violence in the east.
Congo has charged Nkunda with involvement in war crimes, and Human Rights Watch says it has documented summary executions, torture and rape committed by soldiers under Nkunda's command in 2002 and 2004. Yet rights groups have also accused government forces of atrocities and widespread looting.
The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo is its largest in the world, yet only 6,000 peacekeepers of the 17,000-strong U.N. mission in Congo are in the east because of unrest in other provinces.