Sun, Jan 18, 2009 - Page 6 News List

DR Congo rebels declare truce

PEACE After a leadership crisis weakened the National Congress for the Defense of the People, its chief of staff said its members would join the Congolese army

AFP , GOMA, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

Dissident commanders from the main rebel group in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Friday declared an end to the conflict in the troubled region.

Renegade rebels led by Bosco Ntaganda, chief of staff of the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), also vowed to pave the way for displaced civilians to return to their homes and allow rebels to join the army.

“We, members of the chiefs of staff of the CNDP, declare before the entire Congolese people ... the end, from today, Jan. 16, 2009, of hostilities between CNDP and FARDC [the Congolese army],” the rebels said in a statement read by Colonel Esaie Munyakazi.

The dissidents issued the statement after a meeting in Goma, the capital of Nord-Kivu Province, with Interior Minister Celestin Mbuyu and Congolese and Rwandan army chiefs.

The CNDP has been hit by a leadership crisis since Ntaganda announced on Jan. 5 that Laurent Nkunda had been sacked as its leader for “poor leadership.”

Nkunda, in turn, has said that Ntaganda was “no longer in a position to issue orders to the army of the CNDP.”

The rebel faction still loyal to Nkunda was not available for comment on Friday’s announcement.

The dissidents said that the CNDP and the army would remove all roadblocks so that people could move freely within Nord-Kivu and displaced people could return to their homes.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians were displaced in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo after fighting flared up between the CNDP and government forces in August, sparking a large humanitarian crisis.

The renegade rebels also said they were immediately putting “all CNDP combat forces at the disposal of the FARDC high command for their integration into the national army.”

They also asked the government to “speed up the promulgation of the amnesty law covering acts of insurrection in the war” in accordance with a past agreement.

Ntganda’s faction said it was “ready” to join the fight against the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, a group of Rwandan Hutu rebels who have operated in the eastern part of the country since the 1994 genocide, causing a great deal of tension between Kinshasa and Kigali.

The statement came after talks in between the CNDP and the Congolese government were suspended without a formal ceasefire agreement. The two sides were scheduled to meet again next Sunday.

In a TV interview, the government’s spokesman, Communications Minister Lambert Mende, called on the “Nkunda group” to “come to their senses.”

Mende also welcomed the announcement from the renegade commanders as “a ray of hope for the Congolese people.”

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