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Fact Sheet

Fact sheet: Violence in Congo

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A Congolese boy holds up an anti-war banner as people gather Thursday to welcome U.N. Security Council diplomats in Bunia, Congo.

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SUMMARY

A refugee crisis has erupted in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It has been caused by fighting between members of the Hema minority and Lendu majority that started after the May pullout of soldiers from neighboring Uganda. The withdrawal was part of last year's peace accord to end the five-year war that has led to the deaths of more than 3 million people -- mostly from disease and malnutrition. The death toll figure comes from the International Rescue Committee, a New York-based nonprofit group that assists refugees.

France is leading a 1,700-member multinational force -- approved by the U.N. Security Council -- to work with U.N. peacekeepers there in an attempt to restore order.

The war erupted in August 1998 after Rwanda and Uganda sent troops in to the country to back Congolese rebels attempting to oust then-President Laurent Kabila. Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia sent in troops to support Kabila. The foreign troops have all withdrawn.

UPDATE

• In late May, U.N. officials who returned from Bunia said they had never seen a similar humanitarian crisis. "We've seen the most horrible things in Bunia. Women who've lost their arms and legs, child amputees, men chopped to bits, women raped," said Carolyn McAskie, a U.N. official. At the time, she said more than 15,000 people were crowded in a U.N. compound in Bunia under constant security threats and in deteriorating conditions.

• In December 2002, rebel groups and opposition political parties signed a historic treaty to end the war. Elections were to be held at an undetermined time, possibly up to three years later. Under a peace deal signed in April, all sides agreed to take part in a power-sharing transition government and to reintegrate former fighters in a new national army.

KEY QUESTIONS

Who will provide humanitarian aid to the people who have fled the violence?

What steps will the U.N. peacekeeping forces need to take to stop the violence?

WHO'S WHO

Joseph Kabila: The Congo president, and son of assassinated president Laurent Kabila, has said he wants to stay in power and intends to run for president if an election is held.


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