x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Angola mobilises troops for 'pillaged' Congo

Angola mobilises troops in response to UN reports Congolese soldiers have been rampaging through villages in eastern Congo.

Hundreds of internally displaced people line up to receive food rations from the Congolese Red Cross near a camp for displaced people in Kibati.
Hundreds of internally displaced people line up to receive food rations from the Congolese Red Cross near a camp for displaced people in Kibati.

GOMA, Congo // Hundreds of Congolese soldiers rampaged through several villages in eastern Congo, raping women and pillaging homes as they pulled back ahead of a feared rebel advance, the UN reported. Meanwhile, neighbouring Angola said it was mobilising troops to send to Congo, although Angolan Deputy Foreign Minister Georges Chicoty did not specify how many or what their mission will be. Southern African regional leaders meeting at a summit Sunday had discussed sending troops to reinforce the scattered Congolese army near Goma. The provincial capital has been besieged by rebels loyal to renegade Gen Laurent Nkunda since he reached the outskirts. The rebels have promised to fight any African troops that aid the Congolese army. Mr Chicoty made the announcement on Angolan national radio after attending a meeting in Brussels with European foreign ministers yesterday. He said the troops were going to Congo under the auspices of the Southern African Development Community and the European Union. Reporters have already seen Portuguese-speaking black soldiers wearing green berets with pins in the shape of a map of Angola. But the UN has said it did not have direct independent confirmation that Angolan troops were already in Congo. The presence of Angolans in the volatile region could be seen as a provocation by neighbouring Rwanda, raising tensions and fears that the fighting could spill over Congo's borders. UN peacekeeping spokesman Col Jean-Paul Dietrich said the Congolese army troops had reportedly raped civilians near the town of Kanyabayonga in violent attacks that began overnight that lasted into yesterday morning. Kanyabayonga is 100 kilometres north of Goma. Col Dietrich said 700 to 800 Congolese soldiers then fled Kanyabayonga and went on a rampage through several villages to the north. "They looted vehicles, they looted some houses," Col Dietrich said by telephone from Kinshasa, the national capital. A rare night-time gun battle erupted late yesterday between rebels and the army just north of Goma, and the UN said it was trying to get the warring sides to move further apart. Mortars were also used during the nearly one-hour fight near Kibati, Col Dietrich said. Kibati is 10km north of Goma and home to 75,000 people who have been repeatedly forced to flee fighting. "There is a big tension because there are so many people there and it's so close to Goma," Col Dietrich said. In New York, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday called for an immediate cease-fire so aid workers could urgently help "at least 100,000 refugees" cut off in rebel-held areas north of Goma. The UN chief also said he was "very concerned by reports of targeted killings of civilians, looting and rape". Mr Ban said about 3,000 more UN peacekeeping soldiers and police were urgently needed to bolster the 17,000-strong UN force in Congo that has been unable to stop the fighting or halt the rebel advance.

*AP