Friday, January 16, 2009

DRC News Bulletin: Rebel Faction Declares Truce; Alliances Formed Against LRA and FDLR

Friday, January 16, 2009
22:59 Mecca time, 19:59 GMT

DRC rebel fighters declare truce

A quarter of a million civilians have been displaced by the fighting in the east of DR Congo

Commanders from a breakaway group of predominantly Tutsi rebel fighters in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have declared a ceasefire.

Colonel Esaie Munyakazi, a spokesman for National Council for the Defence of the People (CNDP), declared on Friday an immediate end to fighting against government troops.

"We, members of the high command of the CNDP forces, in the name of the officers and the fighters, solemnly declare before God, the whole Congolese people, Africa and the world... the cessation of hostilities between the CNDP and the FARDC [Congolese armed forces]," he said.

The CNDP commanders said they were placing their forces at the disposal of the Congolese army high command "with a view to them being reintegrated into the national army".

The commanders were led by General Bosco Ntaganda, a top CNDP leader who last week broke away from the Tutsi rebel movement's founder, General Laurent Nkunda.

It is unclear whether Nkunda is supporting the ceasefire and subsequent moves to reintegrate fighters within government forces.

Before the CNDP split, rebel fighters had defeated the government army in Congo's eastern province of North Kivu, displacing a quarter of a million civilians and sparking a humanitarian emergency.

Last month, the United Nations' Security Council unanimously voted to renew its peacekeeping mandate in Congo for another year, amid accusations that both government soldiers and rebel fighters had carried out atrocities against civilians.

Source: Agencies

DRC villagers take up arms against LRA rebels

JOE BAVIER | DUNGU, CONGO - Jan 16 2009 15:17

Congolese villagers are forming self-defence groups to protect homes and families from Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels.

LRA rebels have killed 567 people and displaced 115 000 in northeast Democratic Republic of Congo's Oriental province since September, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Friday. Attacks surged after Ugandan forces spearheaded an anti-LRA offensive in December.

In silence broken only by the buzz of insects and the crunch of earth under their plastic sandals, eight men file through the cool night, hunting rifles in hand, scanning the darkness for those who killed their neighbours and burned their homes.

Elsewhere in the areas surrounding the town of Dungu, dozens more like them stalk the forest, mostly farmers and internal refugees armed with locally made guns or bows and arrows.

"This is very necessary for me, first and foremost, for the town, and for the people who are suffering in the bush, who have done nothing and who are dying," said Pascal Kalemba, the bottom half of his boyish face hidden by an airline sleeping mask.

LRA rebel fighters attacked Dungu in September, as efforts to negotiate a peace deal to end their two-decade bush war against the Ugandan government broke down.

"They just walked straight into town. They started to burn houses and kill people," Kalemba said.

At the time, not a single Congolese soldier was deployed in the town of 57 000 inhabitants, located near Garamba National Park, the LRA's stronghold since it fled to Congo in 2005.

On December 14, a Ugandan-led multinational force, including Congolese and South Sudanese soldiers, launched an offensive aiming to capture the rebels' reclusive leader Joseph Kony.

Instead, the operation splintered the rebels into smaller groups that are now attacking villages, slaughtering civilians, raping women and kidnapping children for use as sex slaves and child soldiers. The UN death toll may be conservative.

New York-based Human Rights Watch says three days of raids alone, starting on Christmas Day, killed at least 600 people. Most were beaten to death with clubs or hacked with machetes.

Army "runs away"

The head of Dungu's self-defence force, former chief Etienne Dalafata, said despite the deployment of more than 3 500 government troops to the area, villages must defend themselves.

"We've already gone on operations with the army, but when we go into the bush they get scared and run away. They are city soldiers," he said.

Dalafata said his force enjoys the town's support and that militias have sprung up across Congo's northern borderlands.

All of this worries Felicien Balani, president of Dungu's local civil society association.

"Our army must make them unnecessary. They find their justification in its ineffectiveness. If this lasts another six months or a year, they'll start looking for better equipment, and we risk a Mai Mai phenomenon," he said.

Mai Mai ethnic militias sprang up across eastern Congo in the 1990s during invasions by Rwanda and proxy rebel groups.

Like Dalafata's men, the Mai Mai initially said they took up arms to protect their communities. But they became notorious for bloody massacres of civilians, rape and ritual cannibalism.

Since September, the Dungu militia has taken just three LRA prisoners from a number of clashes with the Ugandan rebels.

All, they said, were turned over to the army.

But this week a self-defence patrol in Nzope village on the eastern edge of Garamba caught two LRA suspects. It mutilated and killed one before handing the other over to the authorities.

In Dungu, Kalemba said he feels no hatred for these latest invaders. He simply wants them to go home.

"Why are they persecuting us? Why?" he said.

"If it comes to a battle, we will die together." - Reuters

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
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DRC: Tables turn as rebel faction declares support for army

Thousands of people have fled the violence in eastern DRC

KINSHASA, 14 January 2009 (IRIN) - A rebel splinter group in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has said it is ready to back joint operations planned by the governments of DRC and Rwanda against Rwandan Hutu insurgents based in the Kivu provinces.

The self-styled new leader of the Congrès national pour la défense du peuple (CNDP), Desiré Kamanzi, also said he would not recognise the outcome of ceasefire negotiations in the Kenyan capital between the DRC government and the main CNDP wing led by renegade general Laurent Nkunda.

Nkunda’s wing has dismissed the change of leadership, insisting it was still in charge of the movement and that the man who mounted the “ouster”, International Criminal Court war crimes suspect Bosco Ntaganda, would face disciplinary proceedings.

"These Nairobi talks simply don't concern us, but we are ready to back the two governments, who have decided to go after the FDLR," said Kamanzi, referring to the Forces Démocratique pour la libération de Rwanda.

"Since 4 January any decision taken previously by the deposed leader is null and void," said Kamanzi.

“We don't recognise the Nairobi matters because the government is dealing with a delegation we don't recognise. But we demand that a body be instituted so that we can agree upon delegates and issues for negotiation with the government," he added.

According to Rwanda’s army spokesman, joint military operations against the FDLR were imminent.

"The two Force commanders [Rwanda and DRC] endorsed the plan, which implies that its implementation takes immediate effect," explained Maj Jill Rutaremara in the New Times, which is close to the government in Kigali.

Rwanda’s Chief of Defence Staff, General James Kabarebe, was in Kinshasa in early January and met DRC President Joseph Kabila and UN mediator Olusegun Obasanjo.

Bertrand Bisimwa, spokesman for the CNDP wing still loyal to Nkunda, said from Nairobi that conditions on the ground in eastern DRC remained volatile.

"There are 700 heavily armed militia from the FDLR, supported by government troops and Congolese Resistance Patriots dressed in regular army fatigues rising up to prepare an offensive against CNDP positions” around Kikuku, about 130km north of Goma, he said.

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