BBC: Thousands flee DR Congo fighting
2 January 2003
Recent fighting between rival rebel factions in north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has forced more than 110,000 people to flee their homes, aid agencies say. Even though the rebel factions battling for control of the region signed a ceasefire agreement on Monday, the area around the mineral-rich town of Beni, near the border with Uganda, remains tense. Fighting between the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) and two rival factions of the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) - another rebel group - broke out two weeks ago, just after all sides agreed to a power-sharing deal. Humanitarian agencies supplying desperately needed food and medical supplies to residents say many are still on the move. Appalling abuse Nicholas Louis from the charity Medecins Sans Frontieres, told the BBC from Beni that people had run away from their homes terrified of the soldiers who started their advance on the town in the week before Christmas. "There was panic as the frontline got nearer, and they simply voted with their feet," he said. Mr Louis said the displaced include many pygmy hunter-gatherers who, for the first time in their lives, had been forced out of their forest homes. Unarmed UN observers monitoring the ceasefire reported no new incidents of fighting on Thursday. But a spokesman in Kinshasa said they remained concerned by the situation. No casualty figures have yet been given for the fighting, but church leaders and aid workers in the region fear that appalling human rights violations have been committed.