by Rory Connell
The UN is under pressure to expand its peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the prospect of renewed fighting has prompted tens of thousands of refugees to flee.
Tomorrow the security council is to debate the secretary general Kofi Annan’s plea to renew the force’s mandate and more than double its number to 23,900, making Congo one of the UN’s more expensive missions at $1.4bn (£800m) a year.
The US and other council members say the force, known as Monuc, is inept but do not contest the need for a sizeable presence.
There has been a recent surge of refugees, underlining the continued volatility of the areas bordering Rwanda and Burundi. Troops loyal to the transitional government in Kinshasa have deployed around Goma to flush out rebels allegedly backed by Rwanda.
No fighting has been reported but the refugees, survivors of five year of war which killed 3 million, do not trust the deal last year aimed at ending the hostilities.
Oxfam says 20,000 villagers from Kalehe, South Kivu, are camping in the hills 40 miles north of Goma with little shelter.