Fighting in Congo Forces Thousands to Flee

KINSHASA, Congo, JUNE 25, 2003 ( The bishop of the Butembo-Beni Diocese has raised the alarm about a new crisis in Congo as rebel fighting in the North Kivu Province forced thousands of people to flee.

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The semiofficial Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano on Sunday echoed the warning of Bishop Melchisedec Sikuli Paluku, who said that the continual advance of the rebel militias of the Rwandan-backed Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) is increasing the flow of fleeing civilians.

A truce was announced in North Kivu last Thursday, in the framework of talks under way in Bujumbura, Burundi, among the RCD representatives, those of the Congolese government headed by President Joseph Kabila, and those of the government-allied Congolese Rally for Democracy-ML. The agreement had no effect, the Vatican newspaper reported.

The Congolese war that started in 1998 has cost 2.5 million lives. Regional powers are fighting for control of the area’s enormous natural resources.

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