Killing, looting plague Bunia after Ugandan troops leave
Bodies lay in the streets of the DRC town of Bunia on Friday, following a day of clashes between rival militia groups vying to fill a power vacuum left by departing Ugandan soldiers, witnesses said.
Militias of the warring Hema and Lendu ethnic groups fought gun battles on Thursday for control of Bunia, the main town in the troubled region of Ituri, 1,600 kilometres northeast of the DRC’s capital Kinshasa.
The United Nations military observer mission in the DRC put the official death toll in Bunia at five. But other aid workers said the number could be much higher as most civilians were afraid to venture outside.
Thousands of civilians had fled their homes, according to humanitarian workers, some to hide in the jungle, others to seek shelter in UN offices and the local airport.
The clashes came one day after Uganda finished withdrawing its troops from the town as part of a peace deal to end its occupation of the eastern DRC.
Observers had warned that the move by the UN to put 600 troops into Bunia was nowhere near enough to keep the peace in the wake of Uganda’s withdrawal of about 6 000 soldiers.
A shifting array of rebel groups, splinter militia and foreign troops have vied for control over the eastern DRC over the past four years of civil war.
Ituri province has been arguably the worst-affected. A U N investigation substantiated reports that rebel militia committed massacres and cannibalism in Ituri last October. - Sapa-DPA