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12 Dec 2004 09:50
Rival factions in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) post-war army fought gun battles in the vast nation’s restive east on Saturday, killing several people, a top military official said.
A brigade of soldiers drawn from a rebel group in the DRC’s 1998-2002 war fought pre-dawn battles near the Rwandan border against troops from an ethnic militia that sided with the DRC’s wartime government, said army Colonel Etienne Bindu.
“There have been several deaths, but the number has not yet been established,” Bindu said of the clashes near the city of Goma between former fighters of the Congolese Rally for Democracy, an insurgency backed by Rwanda, and Congolese ethnic fighters known as Mai Mai.
Bindu, who fought on the side of the Mai Mai during the war, said the ex-rebel troops had been sent to “dislodge” the one-time ethnic fighters from a position outside Goma, but he didn’t say who gave the order.
Analysts say the army’s continued cohesion is critical for the success of post-war national unity in the Western Europe-sized country, where fighting contributed to the deaths of about three million people, mostly through disease and hunger.
Jacqueline Chenard, a spokesperson for the 11 000-member United Nations DRC mission, said UN observers flew over the area to check the reports, but she could not immediately comment on the team’s findings.
Despite peace deals to end the war that drew in the armies of many of the DRC’s neighbours, the country’s east remains volatile.
Tensions rose further in recent weeks amid allegations of incursions into the region by troops of neighbouring Rwanda, which has been threatening to take action against a Rwandan rebel group based in the eastern DRC.—Sapa-AP
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