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Correction to This Article
A Dec. 16 article misstated the nationality of a United Nations official suspended with pay from his job in Congo pending an investigation into allegations of inappropriate conduct. He is an Australian, not a New Zealander.
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Congo, Rwanda at Brink of War as Border Fighting Surges

Many international observers agree that some Rwandan troops entered the country and conducted raids. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and the Security Council have urged the Rwandans to end the incursions.

Reuters reported that on Tuesday, about 10,000 people rallied in Butembo, a commercial center in Congo, to demand that the Rwandans leave.

A few dozen civilians remained in one village in eastern Congo, but most have fled the border areas since tensions between Rwandan-backed rebels and Congolese government troops broke out this week after a two-year lull. (Riccardo Gangale -- AP)

The United Nations recently announced plans to increase its peacekeeping force in Congo from 11,000 to 16,000. But the troops do not have a mandate to forcefully disarm the Hutu militias. On Wednesday, Pakistani peacekeepers fired into the air to repel a group of gunmen near the Congolese port of Bukavu, Reuters reported.

The Congolese government has little control over a country the size of Western Europe, with 58 million people. Rwanda, with about 8 million people, has a battle-hardened military and a sense of national purpose forged by the 1994 genocide.

The Rwandan government's best chance to disarm the Hutus would be for its military to cross into eastern Congo, said Elizabeth Sidiropoulos of the South African Institute of International Affairs here. Yet she and others warned that such an attack could cause the resumption of a full-fledged war.

"We've been waiting for nearly 10 years for the situation to be resolved, and we're still waiting," she said.

Meanwhile, 1,000 people a day die in Congo from malnutrition and disease related to the war and its aftermath, according to the International Rescue Committee, an aid group in New York. In the past six years, the group reported, 3.8 million Congolese have died as agriculture, housing and health care have deteriorated because of the conflict.

Human Rights Watch, an advocacy group also based in New York, estimated that thousands of people in eastern Congo have fled their homes in recent weeks in anticipation of fighting. The group said years of war had trained the Congolese to leave their homes at the sound of gunfire, or even the rumor of approaching conflict.

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