Sun, Sep 16, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Mass graves found in DR Congo

STAND DOWN On Thursday, President Joseph Kabila called on fighters loyal to a warlord to join the army, warning the government could no longer tolerate militias


Three mass graves have been discovered in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a region where army troops clashed recently with rebel forces, the UN said on Friday.

Major Gabriel De Brosses, a spokesman for the UN peacekeeping force in the country, said the graves were found on Monday in the village of Rubare, about 65km north of the regional capital, Goma.

De Brosses said he did not know how many bodies had been found or who killed them.

The region around Goma has been the scene of fighting between the army and renegade fighters loyal former army General Laurent Nkunda, a warlord who commands thousands of combatants in the area.

Nkunda broke away from the regular army and formed his own militia soon after a war ended in 2002, claiming he needed to fight to protect ethnic Tutsis from Rwandan Hutu rebels took refuge in the eastern part of the country following Rwanda's 1994 genocide.

In 2004, Nkunda briefly captured the city of Bukavu. His troops have been accused of torture and rape and he is named in an international arrest warrant for war crimes.

On Thursday, DRC President Joseph Kabila called on fighters loyal Nkunda to join the national army, warning that the government would no longer tolerate militias and needed to reestablish its authority over the lawless east.

"I used to talk about a policy of sticks and carrots, but when one eats all the carrots, what is left? The stick," Kabila told reporters late on Thursday. "I will permit nobody ... to have a militia. It's unacceptable."

Kabila's government has struggled with little success to establish authority over the eastern regions of the country.

Once controlled by rival rebel factions who eventually signed a peace deal in 2002 to end a four-year war, the area has been wracked by fighting between local militias, renegade soldiers and the army for years.

"The question is totally clear. We need to re-establish the authority of the state in the east of the country by all means possible," Kabila said.

"We will continue in the belief that this is the path to follow," he said.

Referring to Nkunda's army, Kabila said: "We will keep up the pressure, diplomatically and politically, and we will also continue to build the capacity of the army to contain them."

The UN peacekeeping mission in the country is the world's largest, with about 18,000 troops.

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