November 1, 2008

Fears Mount for 50,000 DR Congo Refugees

Humanitarian officials they're worried whether 50,000 refugees forced to flee camps in the Democratic Republic of Congo can survive long in the bush.

United Nations officials said the refugees ran off as forces loyal to renegade Gen. Laurent Nkunda advanced toward the eastern Congo regional capital of Goma. They said the camps in Rutshuru, north of Goma, had been forcibly emptied, looted and then burned to the ground, the BBC said.

"There are some 50,000 people who were in those camps," U.N. refugee agency spokesman Ron Redmond told the broadcaster. "We don't know where they would be, we're afraid that they may have just dispersed off into the bush."

More than 35,000 others have entered Goma fleeing the fighting. Aid for them, however, has been slow in coming because of the poor security situation. Many international relief workers have pulled out because of reports of widespread rape and looting by retreating Congolese troops, the BBC said.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner were set to meet Saturday with DR Congo President Joseph Kabila and Rwanda President Paul Kagame, the broadcaster reported.