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Rwandan genocide haunts Congo

By Lindsey Hilsum

Updated on 28 October 2008

The Democratic Republic of Congo slips back towards all-out war as the biggest UN peacekeeping force in the world fails to thwart rebel fighters.

A human emergency is unfolding in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as Rwandan-backed rebels close in on the regional capital Goma, despite UN troops using helicopter gunships to try to repel them.

Government troops are retreating in tanks, lorries and on foot, and tens of thousands of civilians are fleeing a rebel army with a reputation for brutality.

Those rebels claim to have taken the town of Rutshuru, 60 miles north of Goma. Their leader, General Laurent Nkunda, vowed to seize Goma to protect the minority Tutsi population from Hutus who escaped from neighbouring Rwanda after the 1994 genocide.

The 17,000-strong UN force has been firing on the rebels from helicopters, but there is no sign of it stopping their advance.

Tens of thousands of refugees are on the move. Aid agencies say many are malnourished and even dying of hunger.

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