Mon, Dec 01, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Special UN envoy chastises rebel leader in DR Congo


National Congress for the Defense of the People leader Laurent Nkunda delivers a speech in Jomba, Democratic Republic of Congo, on Saturday.


The UN’s special envoy to Congo chided the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DR Congo) main rebel leader during a second round of peace talks for breaking a ceasefire, video footage taken inside the closed-door meeting showed.

The footage, taken by the UN and made available to journalists, shows an angry mediator, former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, berating rebel leader Laurent Nkunda for starting an offensive along the border with Uganda last week, thus breaking a ceasefire in the middle of peace talks.

Since the first round of peace talks on Nov. 16, Nkunda’s forces have clashed with the army several times, and rebels captured two border posts and a town last week.

“You are making me a laughingstock,” Obasanjo told a seated Nkunda.

“What has happened in the last 14 days has not made me happy,” Obasanjo said on Saturday, adding, “If there is anything that will make you make a move against a self-imposed ceasefire by you, you should let me know. When I finished my first round of talks, I reported to you. You haven’t built the same confidence in me and I feel disappointed.’

Nkunda threatened all-out war if the government does not hold talks with him, reports said yesterday.

After the meeting, Nkunda said the government had no choice but to talk.

“If there is no negotiation, let us say then there is war,” the BBC reported Nkunda as saying late on Saturday. “I know that [the government] has no capacity to fight, so they have only one choice — negotiations.”

Nkunda said that Obasanjo should mediate the talks, which he wants to take place in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya.

Fighting between Nkunda’s National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) and government forces exploded into full-scale conflict in October when the rebels came on the verge of taking Goma, the capital of the eastern North Kivu Province.

More than 250,000 civilians have been displaced since August, aid agencies said.

Nkunda called a ceasefire and pulled his troops back from the front lines last month after meeting Obasanjo.

Despite the ceasefire, clashes have continued with government forces and the pro-government Mai Mai militia.

Nkunda’s men on Thursday seized the border town of Ishasha, about 120km from Goma, forcing over 15,000 refugees to flee to Uganda.

Civilians caught between the warring forces have suffered atrocities at the hands of all parties, the UN said.

There have been repeated reports of rape, looting and murder by the CNDP and government forces.

The UN has agreed to send another 3,000 troops to bolster the 17,000-strong peacekeeping mission in DR Congo, known as MONUC. The peacekeepers are hopelessly overstretched by the conflict.

Nkunda has warned several times he will march on the capital Kinshasa if the government does not address his grievances.

The rebel general says he is fighting to protect Tutsis from Hutu militias who fled to DR Congo after Tutsi forces seized power in Rwanda.

The armed Hutu groups were implicated in the 1994 massacres in Rwanda, when 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed.

However, the DR Congo government has so far refused to talk to Nkunda and accused Rwanda of backing him.

There are fears the conflict could reignite the 1998-2003 war, which UN agencies say caused the deaths of over 5 million people in DR Congo.

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