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Published: December 13, 2007

SAKE, Congo — A major confrontation between the Congolese Army and a renegade general is plunging the country back toward war, threatening to undermine the fledgling democratic state and set off a new regional conflict on a scale not seen here in years.

The battle between government troops and the rebel general, Laurent Nkunda, turns on many of the same issues that caused Congo's civil war, which supposedly ended in 2003. It was Africa's deadliest modern war, fueled by the ethnic tensions between Hutus and Tutsis, which had led to the genocide in neighboring Rwanda.

Another factor was the quest to control Congo's unusually rich endowment of minerals and farmland, especially here in North Kivu Province.

None of those underlying problems have been fully resolved, and the recent violence they have spurred has pushed 425,000 people from their homes in the past year alone, including the residents of this strategic provincial town. On Tuesday, they flooded out of town in a vast river of suffering, bedrolls and clothing bundles atop their heads, children toddling at their sides.