October 30, 2008

Threat of New War Looms in Congo

Rebels have reached the gates of Goma, the provincial capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, as a new threat of war flared, officials said Thursday.

The escalation of the long-simmering conflict sent tens of thousands of frantic villagers fleeing while government soldiers left their posts and Congolese military commanders reportedly abandoned their troops despite the presence of 17,000 U.N. peacekeepers in the region, The Washington Post reported.

In the past decade, two civil wars and fighting among militia groups have left millions dead in the unresolved aftermath of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. New tensions threatened to flare into yet another war, the Post said.

Rebel leader Laurent Nkunda agreed to a "unilateral cease-fire" and told the United Nations his forces would not enter this city of 600,000 people to avoid further panic.

U.N. officials said their over-extended force needs help from a heavily armed multinational force to ensure the safety of Congolese civilians.