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Gunfire Grounds UN Council's Plane in Goma after IDP Camp Visit, Busses to Rwanda

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press in Africa: News Analysis

GOMA AIRPORT, June 8 -- The UN Security Council got stranded in Eastern Congo Sunday night, when a bullet tore through the fuselage of the jet they took from Kinshasa. While for a few chaotic moments some Ambassadors thought they'd been targeted by the FDLR militia, about whom they had been hearing all afternoon at the Mugunga I camp for internally displaced people. But it soon emerged that local Congolese security had demanded that a security officer traveling with the Ambassador prove that his gun was empty. The bullet in the chamber disabled the plane, and the Ambassadors huddles around the three computers in the UN terminal at the Goma Airport. Outside dusk fell over the volcano that towers above Goma, and spewed down the lava that still covers one-third of the airport's runway. There was talk of traveling across the lake to Rwanda for a flight, or of spending the night at the lakefront Stella Lodge, where the Ambassadors earlier on Sunday met with the Mixed Commission on disarmament of militia, of which the FDLR is not a part.

   In the Mugunga camp, huts were covered with UN logo emblazened sheet plastic, stretching out to the horizon. The ground alternated between black mud and black lava. A displaced man from Bufmamu in Masisi territory, Misheku Ernest, recounted how war drove him and his four children from his village. They have too many guns there, he said. Until the guns are gone we can't go home.

  French Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert waded into the crowd and said he and the Council are doing everything possible to allow the displaced to go home. There was applause, relatively spontaneous. Then a bus ride past innumerable small shops and street vendors, propane tanks being wheeled on the wooden bicycles invented, it seems, in the Great Lakes region.

   As darkness fully fell over the Goma Airport, bus transport was being arranged to Kigali, to be picked up there by plane. While the UN's Alan Doss earlier on the plane, pre-shooting, said he could neither confirm nor deny that Rwanda has supplied renegade general Laurent Nkunda through this very area, or even through Uganda, the bus would head through this same route, without plan, without visa, the Council flying blind through areas it constantly discusses and votes on.  The DRC Ambassador told Inner City Press it is good the Ambassadors were in the Congo, to see and mostly listen. How it will inform their voting in New York remains to be seen, as do the new travel arrangements. Watch this site.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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