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Rebels claim advance despite leader's call for ceasefire

Video by Sonia DRIDI , Aurore Cloé DUPUIS

Text by AFP

Latest update : 2008-11-17

A spokesperson for rebels loyal to Tutsi general Laurent Nkunda claims his forces have taken new territory, one day after their leader said he wanted peace talks during a meeting with the UN peace envoy for the DR Congo.

View our special coverage: 'Conflict in North Kivu'


Congolese rebel forces said Monday they had taken new territory and threatened more attacks against government troops as a UN envoy warned against expecting quick results from a peace mission.
A day after renegade general Laurent Nkunda said he wanted peace talks, his spokesman said the rebels had repelled the Democratic Republic of Congo army in the latest fighting and now controlled all the area around the town of Rwindi.
"Our troops control all of the Rwindi zone," Nkunda spokesman Bertrand Bisimwa told AFP.
He added that government forces had been pushed back to the lakeside area of Vitshumbi, about 15 kilometers (10 miles) northeast of Rwindi, in Sunday's clashes but added there was no fresh fighting on Monday.
"The government forces are stuck at Vitshumbi, they have no choice but to run away across the lake or through the forest," said Bisimwa.
"We are going to advance on Vitshumbi and silence the government forces. We are going to impose a ceasefire on them."
Troops from a UN peacekeeping force found themselves caught between Nkunda's men and government forces in Sunday's violence around Rwindi which is around 100 kilometres north of the Nord Kivu provincial capital Goma.
While the UN Mission to the DR Congo (MONUC) said the town was calm on Monday, one Indian peacekeeper was reported wounded over the weekend.
Former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, who was appointed by UN chief Ban Ki-moon earlier this month as a peace envoy for the DR Congo, met with Nkunda over the weekend as part of his efforts to halt the conflict.
In an interview broadcast Monday, Obasanjo insisted Nkunda was someone he could do business with but said his mediation efforts could not be expected to yield instant results.
"I believe he's a reasonable man that can listen and react to persuasion," he told the BBC.
He also played down expectations of immediate results following his visit.
"You don't come on one visit and bring about solution to a problem that has been there since 1960," he said.
"That problem is still here today and you think that one visit will solve it? Anyone who would bring that about would be God."
Despite Obasanjo's insistence that Nkunda was open to persuasion, the Tutsi rebel leader appears to have ruled out the possibility that MONUC might be part of a tripartite committee that would monitor a ceasefire.
After his talks with Obasanjo, Nkunda said he was willing to work with the former Nigerian leader.
"Today is a great day for us because we were losing many men and now we have a message of peace. We should work with this mission," he said.
However Obansanjo said that while Nkunda supported the establishment of a body to monitor a ceasefire, he was against MONUC's participation.
Two of the members would be representatives of the Nkunda's rebel CNDP and of the government, said Obasanjo.
"That third group, I thought it would be MONUC, but he objected to MONUC as an institution, he doesn't object to an individual," said Obasanjo.


Date created : 2008-11-17