Hope for the Future of Congo

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Editor's Note: This is the fourth story in a four-part series on the troubles in the Congo, compiled from Fox News' Steve Harrigan's first-hand reports in the war-ravaged African region.

BUNIA, Democratic Republic of Congo -- Everyday life in Bunia (search) is a trial by fire.

Fixing a shoe, doing laundry, cooking a meal -- they're all tasks that are extremely difficult in a region plagued by ethnic wars and rebel factions running rampant. Death is everywhere in a town where the No. 1 daily task is merely to survive.

The Gilbert family members living in one house once numbered 24. It's now a family of seven living in the dirt, on the run, with nothing but malaria and corn meal donated by the United Nations.

"It was 10 o'clock in the morning," farmer Pelo Gilbert told Fox News as he recounted what happened to his family. "Suddenly, there were machetes chopping arms, chopping heads. Gunshot through the back. To save yourself you had to run."

The prospects are so bad in the Democratic Republic of Congo it doesn't make sense to cry out when your bullet wound is squeezed. No sense crying out, because no one is listening. Only babies are foolish enough to expect relief.

While the ethnic groups Hema and the Lendu -- battling for control of the town -- try to kill each other, the U.N. compound turns into a refugee camp. But the U.N. soldiers sit tight inside armored personnel carriers; they're only supposed to intervene in what's going on around them if the compound is threatened.

In Bunia, all of a sudden, people start to run. Small-arms fire has started up again directly outside the U.N. compound. There's small-arms fire, chaos, people running and the U.N. soldiers with the guns still do nothing.

The newly arrived French-led peacekeepers are permitted to defend civilians but there are fewer than 2,000 of them for a country the size of Western Europe. They can't go beyond the city of Bunia and their mission ends in September. It's not clear what happens after that.

Few in the camp know the odds but the sight of a single French transport plane is enough to inspire hope that help is on the way.