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Congo ceasefire broken

©

Latest update : 2008-01-29

After just five days of ceasefire, fresh clashes erupted between Congolese Tutsi rebels and Mai Mai militia in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

KINSHASA, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Congolese Tutsi rebels and Mai
Mai militia clashed on Monday in eastern Democratic Republic of
Congo, breaking a ceasefire signed last week aimed at ending a
long-running conflict, the two factions said.


Tutsi fighters loyal to renegade General Laurent Nkunda and
Pareco Mai Mai militia, who both signed a peace accord on
Wednesday, blamed each other for the fighting around villages 70
km (44 miles) west of the town of Goma.


No details of casualties were immediately available and the
U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo said it could not confirm who
had attacked first.


Nkunda's rebel National Congress for the Defence of the
People (CNDP) and the Pareco Mai Mai faction were among 25 armed
groups that agreed to an immediate ceasefire in Wednesday's
accord, which was also signed by the Congolese government.


The United Nations and Western governments were hoping the
pact, which followed more the two weeks of talks, would end
conflict in eastern North and South Kivu provinces which has
persisted despite the formal end of Congo's 1998-2003 war.


The latest fighting broke out near the villages of
Lusirandaka and Kasake at dawn on Monday.


"This is a serious violation of the ceasefire that we've
just signed," Seraphin Mirindi, a military spokesman for Nkunda,
told Reuters.


"Pareco and FDLR (Rwandan Hutu rebels) tried to attack our
soldiers. They even took some positions before we pushed them
back."


Pareco Mai Mai spokesman Theophile Museveni blamed the
attack on Nkunda's CNDP.


"We signed (Wednesday's accord), and we respect our
commitment. But if the CNDP do not respect what they signed, if
they say they do not want peace, and if (the U.N.) does not want
to react, we will have to defend ourselves," he said.





BUFFER ZONES


As part of the ceasefire, peacekeepers of the 17,000-strong
U.N. contingent in Congo have been deployed to create buffer
zones between the rival eastern factions.


Long after the wider 1998-2003 war ended, fighting has raged
on in the east, adding to a humanitarian catastrophe that has
caused more deaths -- 5.4 million since 1998 -- than any other
conflict since World War Two, relief experts say.


Although Wednesday's deal raised peace hopes, political
analysts said its implementation, including the creation of a
military technical commission to monitor the ceasefire, could
still create problems.


"Getting the technical commission up and running is
essential to the success of the peace agreement," Anneke Van
Woudenberg, a senior researcher in Congo for New York-based
Human Rights Watch, told Reuters.


"Without it, the deal is just a piece of paper with no
ability to monitor the ceasefire."


The accord offers a limited amnesty covering acts of war and
insurgency to the rebel and militia fighters involved. It does
not cover war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide.


Officials said last week Nkunda could win amnesty under the
accord and Congo's government had not renewed an arrest warrant
against him for war crimes.

Date created : 2008-01-28

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