Thousands flee as Congo battles renegade general

Thu May 10, 2012 1:22pm GMT

By Graham Holliday

GISENYI, Rwanda (Reuters) - Nyiraba Herekeza hopes to get to a hospital soon. Ten days ago she was shot in the head as she fled fighting between Congolese government troops and rebels near her home in Gicanga, North Kivu.

The bullet is still lodged inside her right eye socket.

"I came from my house and ran to the forest. I was running away, fleeing the war, then the bullet came and hit me," an exhausted-looking Herekeza, 65, told Reuters as she sat with her two grandchildren minutes after crossing the border with Rwanda. "I don't know which soldiers (shot me)."

Herekeza, who walked across the Gisenyi border crossing on Wednesday afternoon, hoped to receive treatment from Red Cross medics at Nkamira transit refugee camp, 22 km (14 miles) to the east.

She and many others have been caught in the crossfire of clashes between the army of the Democratic Republic of Congo and soldiers loyal to a renegade General Bosco Ntaganda, wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes.

Kinshasa is on the hunt for Ntaganda, a former rebel commander who fought the government before he was integrated into the army alongside other militants in a 2009 peace deal.

Clashes erupted after Congolese President Joseph Kabila announced last month he would try to arrest Ntaganda, wanted by the ICC for recruiting child soldiers to fight in northeastern Congo's ethnic conflict.

Kabila had previously said Ntaganda was a lynchpin in the fragile peace deal that integrated his fighters. The region remains plagued by myriad rebel groups after a 1998-2003 war.   Continued...

Indicted war criminal Bosco Ntaganda poses for a photograph during an interview with Reuters in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, October 5, 2010. REUTERS/Katrina Manson
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