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UN Says Renegade DRC Soldiers Still in Bukavu - 2004-06-05

United Nations peacekeepers say renegade soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo have failed to live up to a promise to withdraw from the eastern city of Bukavu which they captured earlier this week.

A U.N. spokesman, Sebastian Lapierre, said late Friday that some troops left the town on the border with Rwanda, but many others remain. He also expressed concern about continued looting by rebel soldiers.

Renegade commander General Laurent Nkunda had pledged most of his troops would be out of the city by Friday.

General Nkunda said his troops entered Bukavu Wednesday after hearing reports that fellow tribesmen of the Banyamulenge ethnic minority were being persecuted in the city. He said he recognizes the DRC government, but wants the local military chief replaced.

The fall of Bukavu and the failure of U.N. peacekeepers to protect the town has sparked protests and unrest across the DRC. Rioting continued Friday in the capital Kinshasa, where hundreds of people wielding clubs rampaged through the streets, smashing windows, looting stores and burning tires.

U.N. World Food Program officials say the attacks have forced the organization to suspend its food program in the country.

Aid officials said they had been providing some 150,000 people with 3500 tons of food a month.

The latest developments have called into question Congo's shaky peace process and the abilility of the government, led by President Joseph Kabila, to assert its authority in Africa's third-largest state, which is recovering from five years of civil war. They also have reignited tensions with neighboring Rwanda, which twice invaded Congo in the last decade, and which President Kabila accuses of supporting his opponents. Rwanda denies the charges.