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IN THE NEWS - Update on the Democratic Republic of the Congo - 2004-12-11

Broadcast: December 11, 1004

This is Steve Ember with In the News in VOA Special English.

The United Nations is investigating reports that Rwandan soldiers attacked civilians last month in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The violations reportedly happened during a Rwandan military campaign against Hutu rebels in eastern Congo. People say armed men, thought to be Rwandans, attacked civilians and burned houses.

Rwanda has repeatedly threatened to send troops across the border to kill Hutu extremists. Many of the Hutus fled to Congo after taking part in the killings in Rwanda in nineteen ninety-four. About eight hundred thousand minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed.

The United Nations has condemned reports of Rwandan military operations in eastern Congo. On Tuesday, the Security Council called on Rwanda to immediately withdraw any troops it may have there. The council warned that it would consider actions against individuals who try to harm the peace process in Congo.

Many Congolese blame the current situation on the U.N. peacekeeping operation in Congo, known as MONUC. Critics say many of the soldiers are poorly trained and lack the will, and the equipment, to do the job. There have even been reports of sex crimes against children by members of the peacekeeping force.

On Wednesday, Rwanda said it had deployed troops along the border last month. But it denied sending them into Congo. Rwanda has criticized Congo and the United Nations for failing to disarm the Hutu fighters.

The Congolese government has sent more troops to eastern Congo.

Rwanda invaded Congo in nineteen ninety-six and nineteen ninety-eight. The second attack led to a five-year civil war in Congo. Several other countries in the area also got involved.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo was called Zaire until nineteen ninety-seven.

In two thousand two a peace agreement was signed. Rwandan troops left Congo. But since then, not much has been done to disarm the Hutu rebels, as called for by the peace agreement.

The International Rescue Committee says the natural mineral wealth of Congo continues to be stolen. Basic health needs, water and schooling remain limited. Also, many families have been terrorized by armed groups.

The International Rescue Committee said this week that close to four million people in Congo have died since nineteen ninety-eight as a result of the crisis. Most have died from hunger and disease.

The committee says more U.N. troops are needed to disarm and arrest Rwandan Hutu fighters. It also says Congo is not receiving enough international aid.

Congo is currently ruled by a temporary coalition government. Some signs of economic recovery have been reported since the war officially ended. President Joseph Kabila says general elections will take place next year.

In the News, in VOA Special English, was written by Cynthia Kirk.