Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

from Africa News blog:

Congo: Step forward or back to the past?

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Rwanda sent hundreds of its soldiers into eastern Congo on Tuesday in what the neighbours have described as a joint operation against Hutu rebels who have been at the heart of 15 years of conflict. Details are still somewhat sketchy, with Rwanda saying its soldiers are under Congolese command but Kinshasa saying Kigali’s men have come as observers.

Evidence on the ground suggests something more serious. United Nations peacekeepers and diplomats have said up to 2,000 Rwandan soldiers crossed into Congo. A Reuters reporter saw hundreds of heavily armed troops wearing Rwandan flag patches moving into Congo north of Goma, the capital of North Kivu province. The world’s largest U.N. peacekeeping mission is, for now, being kept out of the loop.

Foreign soldiers in Congo are nothing new. Rwanda first invaded in 1996. A 1998-2003 war in Congo sucked in six neighbouring armies. But after years of diplomacy and billions of dollars spent on peacekeeping and Congo’s 2006 elections, analysts are frantically trying to work out what is going on.

The current joint operation stems from an agreement signed in December between Rwanda and Congo to cooperate more closely after weeks of heavy fighting in North Kivu province. Although the fighting was officially between Congolese government forces and Tutsi rebels, most analysts saw it as an escalation of a proxy war between Rwanda and Congo that has continued despite 2003 peace deals.

What should the world do to help Congo?

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Another bout of bloody clashes between Congolese Tutsi rebels and government forces, accompanied by vicious looting has sent the hapless civilians of eastern Congo’s North Kivu province once again running for their lives. Tens of thousands of people have fled the fighting, bringing to nearly 1 million the number of people displaced by fighting in North Kivu alone since Congo’s first ever democratic elections two years ago.

The fighting on the border between Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda has triggered the usual round of recriminations between the two countries’ governments. Foreign envoys are jetting back and forth between Kinshasa and Kigali. The United Nations and European Union are both considering sending in extra troops to help the U.N. peacekeeping force, already the world’s biggest at 17,000-strong.

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