Wednesday, October 24, 2007

DR Congo general to surrender men

DR Congo general to surrender men

A renegade general in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo says he will integrate 500 of his fighters into the army as a gesture of goodwill.

"I'm doing this to show that we want peace," Gen Laurent Nkunda, whose force is estimated to be between 6,000 and 8,000 men, told Reuters news agency.

But he told the BBC he still wanted DR Congo's minority Tutsi community to be protected from Rwandan Hutu rebels.

Gen Nkunda has refused to abide by a government deadline to disarm.

He accuses the Congolese army of receiving backing from Rwandan Hutus - the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) - who fled into DR Congo after the genocide in 1994.

More than 370,000 villagers have been displaced by the fighting in the Kivus since the start of this year and an estimated 8,000 have crossed the border since the weekend.


The BBC's Arnaud Zajtman who is in eastern DR Congo says the general has promised to integrate his soldiers before but up to now has failed to do so.

"Today, I am ready to hand over 500 of my men to the Kirolirwe integration camp," Gen Nkunda told the BBC by telephone from his stronghold at Masisi in North Kivu province.

The UN mission in DR Congo (Monuc) says an integration camp has been prepared near the rebel base, but so far none of Gen Nkunda's men have arrived.

"We hope they will come very soon with no conditions," Monuc spokesperson Sylvie Van Den Wildenberg told the BBC.

Gen Nkunda said he still wanted the government to disarm Rwandan Hutu rebels as well as addressing the return of the Congolese Tutsis currently in refugee camps in Rwanda.

President Joseph Kabila had threatened an all-out military offensive in the Kivus to forcibly disarm Gen Nkunda's men, but has allowed the deadline to slip.

On Monday, the leader of the Mai Mai militia which is fighting Gen Nkunda also rejected a government ultimatum to disarm.

New York-based Human Rights Watch has warned that the worsening crisis in the east is developing into a Hutu-Tutsi war.

A five-year war in DR Congo ended in 2003, but the 17,600 UN peacekeepers in the country (4,300 of them in North Kivu alone) have struggled to keep a lid on instability since then.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home