EU considers sending troops to Congo

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The Independent Online

Fresh fighting broke out yesterday near Bukavu in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, seized by renegade forces last week, and the European Union was considering sending troops to stop the violence threatening the country's shaky peace process.

The fighting is the most serious challenge yet to President Joseph Kabila's struggle to restore authority across Africa's third-largest country, after five years of war, and has reignited tension with its tiny neighbour Rwanda. Colonel Jules Mutebutsi, commander of one of two renegade groups that captured Bukavu from the army last week, said government troops had attacked his forces. "General Mbuza Mabe's troops came from Walungu, south-west of Bukavu. They were many but they didn't get very far," Col Mutebutsi said. He added that the situation was now calm.

A United Nations spokesman in Bukavu said he could not confirm the presence of government troops, but a UN source said he thought General Mabe's forces were involved in the clashes. Residents said sporadic gunfire could still be heard in the early evening and most people remained indoors.

Soldiers loyal to another renegade commander, General Laurent Nkunda, left Bukavu on Sunday under international pressure after helping Col Mutebutsi seize the town last Wednesday. But Col Mutebutsi and his 300 or so troops remain in the town. President Kabila has vowed to retake Bukavu.

In the capital, Kinshasa, Louis Michel, Belgium's Foreign Minister, said the EU was considering an emergency intervention force similar to the 1,100-strong French-led mission sent to restore peace in the north-eastern town of Bunia last year. He said: "We are in agreement on the principle of deployment." He said the EU was expected to discuss the matter on Monday.(Reuters)