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Congo blames Rwanda for fresh fighting

Clashes between government forces and Tutsi rebels could force 30,000 people from their homes in eastern Congo.

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Renewed fighting between Congolese rebels and government forces has worsened one of the world's worst humanitarian crises, sending thousands of villagers from their homes, while Congo's government accuses the Rwandan government of intervening on its soil.

Fighters from the rebel faction of Gen. Laurent Nkunda – an ethnic Tutsi thought to be backed by the Tutsi-led government in neighboring Rwanda – took the strategic town of Rumangabo and a military base from the Congolese Army during heated battle this week, but have since withdrawn. Casualty numbers were not known, but internal refugees told the Monitor that the fighting was fierce and that they were urged to leave their homes by government soldiers.

"Soldiers told us to leave because they were going to fight strongly against the Tutsis," says Appoline Nyiranza Bimana, a mother of three children, speaking on the morning of her arrival this week at Kibumba camp 25 miles north of the regional capital of Goma. "There was so much shooting, I couldn't stay at home anymore."

The fresh wave of fighting comes just 10 months after the signing of a peace deal between most of the major armed factions in the troubled eastern region of Congo. Nearly 3 million Congolese have died since 1996, when a rebel army – backed by a number of neighboring foreign countries, including Rwanda – forced the government of President Mobutu Sese Seko out of power. The January peace deal, brokered by the European Union and the United Nations, was seen by many as Congo's best chance for finally sending rebel armies home, but now political experts and peacekeepers say that it is clear the deal itself was never given a chance to work.

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