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In Congo, a new twist on 'blood diamonds'

Warring militias are stealing cows to perpetuate a conflict sparked by spillover from the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

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For years, African militias have used proceeds from precious natural resources to fund conflicts – a practice dramatized in the 2006 Hollywood film "Blood Diamond." Now, there's a new twist: blood cows.

Warring rebel groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo are stealing and selling livestock to finance a conflict sparked by spillover from the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in which 800,000 were killed.

Vast and volatile, the Democratic Republic of Congo has long suffered from conflicts fought over its reserves of gold, copper, uranium, and coltan, a mineral needed in cellphones and other electronics. For years, armed groups have sought control over mines and forests, their acquisitions of wealth fueling cycles of violence. Cattle may sound less glamorous than precious metals, but they're accessible.

"It's just like the mining resources," says Alpha Sow, head of the local office of the United Nations Mission in Congo (MONUC). "Part of this money goes to buy munitions."

In January, the Congolese Army and two major rebel factions agreed to a cease-fire and opened peace talks. As MONUC redeployed to help pave the way for peace, both factions moved quickly to establish or strengthen their grip on territories across North Kivu province. Fighting resumed and cattle thievery soared.


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