DAKAR, July 30 (Reuters) - Congo's army along with United Nations peacekeepers is fighting a string of conflicts across eastern Congo, where hundreds are dying in a worsening humanitarian crisis three years after millions voted in polls.
The 2006 elections were deemed a success, drawing a line under years of war and chaos and luring investors to the mineral-rich giant, where foreign armies had roamed and over 5 million people have died due to conflict since 1998.
But the announcement this week by South African investors that they planned to pull out of a vast hydroelectric power plan has underscored persistent political uncertainty, worsened by failures by the government and the U.N. to pacify the east.
Here are some details on the main conflicts in Congo:
UGANDAN REBELS IN THE FAR NORTHEAST
Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels remain active, despite a Ugandan army-led multinational strike on them late last year, which was meant quash a 20 year old rebellion based in Congo's remote northeast since 2005.
The United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said this week that nearly 50 people had been killed and 149 people kidnapped in 55 attacks carried out by the Ugandan rebels in Orientale province so far this month alone.
Ugandan troops officially withdrew from Congo in March, leaving only intelligence officers to ensure coordination, but witnesses say they are still involved in ongoing clashes, like those that killed 23 rebels on July 21 and 22.
The rebels have now killed over 1,250 civilians and captured 1,500 more since September last year, the U.N. says.
The U.N. has sent reinforcements to the region but its blue helmets are thinly stretched and the mission is still awaiting reinforcements promised eight months ago. [ID:nN10169609]
ITURI'S OIL HOPES, PERSISTENT REBELS
Once a hotbed of fighting where tens of thousands were killed, forcing a European military intervention in 2003, Ituri district, also in the northeast, has quietened down in recent years.
This has allowed the government to negotiate with firms like Tullow Oil
, who are interested in oil blocks under Lake Albert, which sits on the border with Uganda. [ID:nLO961003]
But the FPRI, a militia of several hundred fighters, is holding out and has refused to sign up to local peace deals. Peacekeepers fought alongside Congo's army to capture positions in clashes that killed seven rebels and one soldier this week.
"We fought with helicopter gunships and artillery. We want to stabilize the Ituri district for ever, that's why we are determined to neutralize all of them," said Lt Col Jean-Paul Dietrich, spokesman for the U.N.'s 17,000-strong Congo force.
NORTH KIVU'S FRAGILE PEACE
Ever since the end of Congo's 1998-2003 war, North Kivu province has remained the most volatile, largely due to dissident General Laurent Nkunda's rebels, who repeatedly routed government forces and nearly took the capital, Goma, in 2008.
Nkunda's rebellion crumbled this year when former foes Congo and Rwanda struck a deal for Kigali to arrest him in return for permission to hunt down the Rwandan Hutu FDLR rebels in Congo.
The deal also saw numerous pro- and anti-government factions brought into the army and, when the Rwandans left, U.N.-backed operations against the FDLR, who have been at the heart of 15 years of violence in the region since the 1994 genocide.
Congo hailed operations a success but the rebels have killed hundreds in reprisal attacks on civilians, displacing thousands, and retaken many of the positions once the government and U.N. forces moved on. [ID:nLN523847]
Government forces have been accused of carrying out war crimes against civilians and factions of pro-government forces have also turned on each other, killing over a dozen fighters in clashes this week. [ID:nLF404998]
SOUTH KIVU SUCKED BACK INTO CONFLICT
The U.N. and Congo's government have taken their controversial offensive against the rebels to South Kivu, where they earn money from extortion and mining. [ID:nLD430289]
Success has also been claimed with rebel bases and training camps destroyed but analysts and the U.N. fear that, like in North Kivu, civilians will be targeted in reprisals and positions retaken unless weak government forces consolidate positions won.
Aid agency Oxfam says that some areas which had previously begun to look towards development were now considered an acute crisis zone. Uvira district has seen numbers of displaced civilians leap from around 10,000 last month to over 55,000 in three weeks.
A senior U.N. rights official last week called the situation in the east "dire" and called on the army to hold soldiers who commit abuses accountable but he backed operations as the only way to end the carnage. [ID:nLP552918]
Additional Reporting by Thomas Hubert; Editing by Ron Askew
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