UN delivers food to Congo refugees

FOOD supplies were delivered across rebel-held areas of eastern Congo yesterday for the first time in weeks.

More than 100 tonnes of food will go to 50,000 civilians in the area north of the provincial capital of Goma over the next four days, a UN World Food spokesman said.

Fighting between the army and troops loyal to rebel leader Laurent Nkunda has displaced at least 250,000 people despite the presence of the largest UN peacekeeping force in the world, with some 17,000 troops. Many of the thousands who were gathered outside a small Catholic church in Kiwanja yesterday said it was too dangerous to return to their fields because armed groups were there.

Musi Batai, an elderly man with a farm a few kilometres from Kiwanja, said pro-government militiamen had occupied his fields, rich in beans and corn. “They told me I had to pay them if I wanted to take my food,” he said, adding that the men chased him away at gunpoint and said they were going to sell his food.

At a stadium in Rutshuru, where a second UN distribution was taking place, thousands gathered around stacks of corn meal. The bags are meant to last a family 15 days. “There is plenty of food, but I can’t go back to my farm,” said 29-year-old Ibrahim Masumbuku. “There is no security anywhere.”

Eastern Congo has been unstable since millions of refugees spilled across the border from Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.

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