DRC: Kabila urges rebel leader to agree on army integration

Monday, September 17, 2007

President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo has urged dissident General Laurent Nkunda to integrate his forces voluntarily into the national army or face force.

“We will continue to build up the army’s capacity to force him to accept the integration into the army,” Kabila said. “I have spoken on previous occasions about stick and carrot politics but it appears that they have eaten all our carrots and the only thing we have left is the stick.

“I won’t allow anyone – whether an individual or a society – to have a militia. It’s unacceptable,” Kabila said.

Nkunda and his men launched hostilities more than two weeks ago in North Kivu province to fight the regular army, which had strengthened its presence in the area in a bid to force the rebels to integrate.

The difficult cohabitation has not succeeded and prompted the latest clashes, which led to tens of thousands being displaced. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) warned on 14 September that it was unable to reach many of the displaced.
“We are working round the clock to reach people who have fled with virtually nothing,” said WFP DRC country director Charles Vincent. “Across the east, the situation is getting worse every day for innocent civilians caught up in this conflict. There are too many we are currently unable to reach.”
In the outlying areas of North Kivu, reports indicate an alarming increase in acute malnutrition, reaching almost19 percent in some cases – well past the emergency threshold, said WFP. The situation among the displaced in South Kivu province is little better, with rates climbing to 17 percent.

The UN mission in DRC, comprising 17,000 troops and 1,200 professional staff, placed its troops between the two sides in Sake, a town about 30km west of Goma, the provincial capital.

Nkunda has always said he was defending the Banyamulenge, an ethnic Tutsi group, who he regards as minorities. Kabila has refused to comment on recent remarks by Rwandan President Paul Kagame that some of the claims set out by Nkunda were legitimate.

He said the Rwandan rebels should return to Rwanda. “The government’s position and my position has always been the same: these people should all go back to their place, and their place is Rwanda,” he said.

“Almost 20,000 Rwandese combatants have already been sent back with the help of the UN, and today we are talking about only 6,000 men, women, children and their animals,” he said.

Kabila said the Congolese army could resort to more force to apprehend the rebels and send them back to their country.

“On several occasions force was used. Operations are currently under way against these people in South Kivu,” he said.

Source: IRIN