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October 29, 2008
Crisis and chaos claim eastern Congo


AUDIO: Karl Steinacker, a UNHCR coordinator in Goma, speaks about the worsening situation in the city.

Internally displaced people (IDPs) gather outside of the provincial capital of Goma.

On the fourth day of fighting, rockets and bombs flew overhead in eastern Congo as rebels prepared to overtake the city of Goma. In a new development today, rebels declared a cease-fire in Goma, citing worry over panic.

Earlier, the 17,000-strong United Nations peacekeeping mission in Congo, known as MONUC, bombed rebel forces north of Goma, but failed to stop the rebel advance and are now retreating.

The conflict has created a humanitarian catastrophe with estimates of up to 45,000 refugees fleeing IDP camps and pouring into Goma. The top UN envoy to Congo has said the peacekeeping force is overstretched, and the Congolese army has also retreated from Goma.

An American living in Goma writes about her experience on the ground in the “From Congo” blog. She writes from a Rwandan hotel, as she and other international citizens were told to leave as violence against the UN forces increased.

“Samantha” of the Virunga National Park’s blog writes that UN peacekeepers are fleeing, zooming past her home on motorbikes, as the country’s citizens speculate and panic.

The “Hope and Healing Congo” blog criticizes the UN peacekeeping force, calling its soldiers ineffective.

“Dr. Lucy” of the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project in Goma writes about concern for her staff’s safety amid the violence — she gives her staff money to hide in their homes in case looters make demands.

The UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting tonight.

See our recent coverage of the ongoing crisis in Congo.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user cyclopsr under a Creative Commons license.

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