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Clashes continue in DR Congo

©

Latest update : 2008-01-04

Fighting continued near Mushaki in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Nord-Kivu province after the army pushed in vain to try to take a town back from a renegade former general, the military said.

Fighting continued Thursday near Mushaki in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Nord-Kivu province after the army pushed in vain to try to take a town back from a renegade former general, the military said.



"We tried to liberate Mushake but the insurgents resisted. We moved forward but didn't reach it," Lieutenant-Colonel John Tshibangu, deputy commander of the regular army's 14th brigade said after a day of clashes.

The battle for Mushake, 30 kilometres (20 miles) northwest of the provincial capital, Goma, pitted FARDC troops against renegade soldiers serving ex-general Laurent Nkunda, who late Wednesday appealed for a truce.



"The insurgents have been reinforced," the FARDC officer added. "We haven't been ordered to cease fire. We're preparing to try to take Mushake."



A UN-brokered ceasefire reached in early September has been shattered by renewed fighting in the restive province that has already killed at least 85 troops loyal to Nkunda and 16 government soldiers, according to the army.



Nkunda says he is defending minority Congolese Tutsis from other population groups and armed movements, but has established himself as a powerful local warlord in the Masisi highlands and in territory bordering Rwanda and Uganda.



On Wednesday, he proposed a truce and offered 500 of his men for demobilisation but this was greeted with caution in Kinshasa.

Defence Minister Diemu Chikez said Thursday that the government acknowledged the renewed ceasefire request, but told AFP the army "has only been responding to Nkunda's attacks."



"He announces an end to the truce on Monday, then on Wednesday evening, he wants a ceasefire. We take note, but we're waiting to see how this works out on the ground," Chikez added.



"The FARDC is not engaged in an offensive," he said. "The general staff has given all dissident fighters until October 15 to go to regroupment camps. We're waiting for our brothers to get to these camps."

The aim is for soldiers across the country to go to centres either to return to civilian life or be integrated into the army. Eighty thousand fighters still have to be demobilised and reallocated, mainly in the east and in Kinshasa.



The government is trying to deal with all sides from the rebel war that wracked the vast country from 1998 to 2003 but a previous bid to incorporate Nkunda forces fell apart when they opposed being posted away from their eastern fiefdom.



Nkunda formally declared the September 6 truce over on Monday after a series of violations but Chikez said: "We've never ruled out a peaceful settlement but it's clear we're not negotiating with Nkunda. He's a rebel and a criminal, who must one day answer for his actions."



An arrest warrant was issued in September 2005 for Nkunda, accused of war crimes.

 

Date created : 2007-10-12

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