Protesters Pelt UN Compound in Eastern Congo

Michael J. Kavanagh with displaced Congolese in the Kibumba IDP camp last week. This IDP camp was raided and captured by Congolese rebels yesterday. Image by Taylor Krauss. Congo, 2008.

Today, Worldfocus correspondent Michael J. Kavanagh reported from inside a UN compound in eastern Congo, which faced a storm of protesters. Michael is also a journalist for the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Watch Michael’s interview with Martin Savidge: UN commander resigns as thousands flee in Congo.

Violence in eastern Congo reached new heights today when the force led by Tutsi rebel General Laurent Nkunda captured the Congolese army’s main base in the east.
The rebels went on to capture three other towns and are now only 20 km (or 12 miles) outside of Goma, where United Nations peacekeepers blocked their advance.

Protesters started taking out their frustrations on the UN because they feel the UN is not doing enough to protect them against the small (but powerful) rebel group of 5,000 to 7,000. Protesters have been stoning vehicles, pelting the compound with rocks and burning tires in the street.

There are probably about 100 people total inside the compound. At least one Congolese civilian was killed when U.N. peacekeepers were forced to open fire on a crowd storming their base.

There are more than 1 million internally displaced people (IDPs) here in the east right now. Today, another 20,000 were displaced and on their way to Goma — a camp up the road had been emptied out.

Over 250,000 people have been displaced by fighting in the last six weeks.

A peace process that began in January 2008 was supposed to force the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR) to put down their weapons and go back to Rwanda, but that process has fallen apart.

This is kind of an endgame to the Congolese war that started in 1996, when Rwanda tried to track down genocidaires — or Rwandan Hutus who committed genocide — in eastern Congo. There are still remnants of that genocidal force here in Congo.

Congo is now accusing Rwanda of fighting a proxy war by supporting Nkunda’s rebels. In response, Rwanda says both Congo AND the UN peacekeeping force are protecting the FDLR.

Nkunda’s spokesperson said their forces are fighting primarily against the FDLR - a group of Rwandan Hutu rebels who have terrorized eastern Congo ever since they first came here in 1994. The leaders of the FDLR are accused of participating in the Rwandan genocide.