The Aftermath

11Jun2000 CONGO: Bodies litter Congo city after Uganda-Rwanda clash. 16:02 GMT

By Todd Pitman

KISANGANI, Congo, June 11 (Reuters) - Blown-out apartment blocks, thousands of ammunition boxes and dozens of soldiers' bodies disfigured Kisangani on Sunday after a week of battles between Ugandan and Rwandan forces in the Congolese city.

The two armies, once the closest allies in the region, faced off for six days along a jagged front line that cut through the Tshopo residential district, waging fierce firefights from buildings and trenches carved into the streets.

But Rwandan commanders said they finally punched north through Ugandan lines on Saturday, dislodging tank-backed Ugandan troops and forcing them to abandon their positions.

Calm returned to the eastern Congolese city on Sunday. But the devastation wrought by the battles was immense.

On one street in Tshopo, entire rows of pink and light blue apartment blocks were laid to waste.

Mangled metal hung from rooftops, concrete walls were blown off or torn through by heavy-calibre bullets and hundreds of houses and shopfronts were riddled with bullet holes.

White and green tubes that once held 82mm short-range mortars and hundreds of square metal ammunition boxes were flung away in the streets, in houses and drainage ditches.

Residents, many returning home with bundles and mattresses on their heads for the first time since clashes broke out last Monday, walked through the rubble, appalled by the destruction.

"Look what they've done here. They've destroyed our houses, massacred our people," said one resident named Thomas.

"What did the Congolese people do to deserve this?"

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he would ask the Security Council to take steps to end the "reckless" fighting between foreign armies that have entered Congo to support anti-government rebel factions.


In one Kisangani house, women and children wept and screamed as they gazed at the bodies of two small children, eyes wide open and re-dressed in formal clothes, lying on a white cloth in their living room. Another boy lay dead on a table in a side room, a family member beside him weeping into his palm.

Other people walked nervously down sandy streets lined by tall palm trees, aghast at the sight of dead Ugandan soldiers sprawled about them.

At least 37 corpses, all Ugandan, lay in the streets, some clutching ammunition boxes, others twisted in the dirt, brains and blood pouring out into the road.

Eight of them lay in trenches only a few inches deep in a patch of elephant grass, one with a hole in his wrist, another with a bullet in the head.

Thousands of bullets and abandoned green boots and uniforms littered a roundabout along with yellow sheets and a plethora of worthless 500-Zaire notes, many shredded.

Near the Tshopo river bridge, a wood and steel structure that stretches over thundering waterfalls and now marks the front line, the bodies of two Ugandan soldiers lay splayed out in the road as Rwandan troops looked on.

United Nations cars were stationed at both ends of the bridge, which bore tank tracks and bloody footprints, and a blue U.N. flag was raised over the top of it.

On the other side, a few Ugandans hunched down with their rifles in tufts of grass while others gazed south across the banks of the Tshopo.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said at least 150 civilians had been killed and 700 wounded in the fighting.

But complete casualty figures were unknown. Few people until Sunday had been able to venture into the streets to assess the damage.

As Rwandan troops patrolled streets occupied only the day before by Ugandans, a group of men appeared carrying an old man in a wheelbarrow and yelling, "We have wounded here, please somebody do something!"

(C) Reuters Limited 2000.