Residents flee Congo town fearing new clashes

 

Hundreds of civilians are fleeing the eastern Congolese town of Goma, fearing new clashes between government and rebel troops who battled over nearby Bukavu during weeks of deadly fighting last month.

Another escalation of violence in the country's Kivu region would further threaten a brittle central African peace process already shaken by the Bukavu crisis and deep divisions within the Democratic Republic of Congo's interim government.

Ferries leaving Goma, the lakeside provincial capital of North Kivu, were overloaded with passengers this week as residents fled to Bukavu, 60 miles south, at the opposite end of Lake Kivu.

"Normally there are 100 people per boat, but since Monday it has been more than 200 passengers per boat and hundreds more are left behind. People here are afraid," said a shipping agent at Goma's port who declined to be named.

Tension has been mounting steadily for weeks in Goma as some 13,000 government troops deployed into positions surrounding the town long used as a base by the RCD, an ex-rebel movement backed by neighbor Rwanda during Congo's five-year conflict.

"There will be a war here. People say today, tomorrow, the day after. Every day we are waiting to see," said Platini, a motorcycle taxi driver in Goma who is trying to earn enough money to catch a boat to Bukavu.