More than 500 people, including at least 300 Congolese civilians, died this month as Rwandan and Ugandan troops battled over the Congolese city of Kisangani, officials of the International Committee of the Red Cross said today.
Philippe Spoerri, a Red Cross representative in the city, told the Associated Press that the death toll could rise as people remove the rubble of bombed-out houses and apartments. The Rwandan and Ugandan troops poured an estimated 6,000 mortar rounds and artillery shells into the city during their battle two weeks ago until Ugandan troops withdrew.
Spoerri said the Red Cross had counted 318 civilians killed and 1,668 people injured in the shelling and gun battles, including 569 who received treatment in Kisangani's four ill-equipped hospitals and medical centers. Another Red Cross official, Florian Westphal, told the Reuters news agency that more than 400 civilians and 120 combatants had been killed.
Rwanda and Uganda sent troops into Congo in 1998 to support a rebellion against President Laurent Kabila, but they since have backed rival rebel groups. Three times in the past year, the Rwandans and Ugandans and their allied Congolese factions have fought in Kisangani, terrorizing a tired population and tearing apart the already impoverished city.
Kisangani is Congo's third-largest city and a center for country's lucrative diamond trade. It always has been a major prize in the wars for control of the country since it gained independence in 1960.
In Geneva, Kemal Morjane, the United Nations' special envoy for Congo, said Rwanda and Uganda had finished withdrawing their troops from Kisangani as demanded by the Security Council. But a U.N. observer said Ugandan troops were still near the city.