Congo: rebels start joining DRC army

January 30, 2009 at 9:43 am | Posted in Senza Categoria | Leave a comment
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Rumangabo – The first of more than 6 000 Congolese rebels took part in a ceremony on Thursday to integrate their units into the regular army as part of a deal to end the conflict in eastern DR Congo.

Defence Minister Charles Mwando presided over the ceremony at one of the country’s biggest military barracks, which had fallen to National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) rebels last October.

“I note the integration of the CNDP and (self-defence militia) Pareco into the FARDC,” said the minister, referring to the government army.

Nord Kivu provincial governor Julien Paluku told the ceremony that “at the end of this integration, the two million displaced people can hope to return to their homes”.

The province, which borders Rwanda in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, has been worst hit by a spate of conflicts over the last 15 years which have displaced an estimated two million people.

Eleven rebels marched in line to a table where they were each given green FARDC (Armed Forces of DR Congo) uniforms in exchange for their CNDP fatigues, to applause and shouts of approval from civil society representatives.

They were then examined by two army doctors before they dissolved into the ranks of army soldiers.

“We are going to form integrated brigades within the FARDC (Armed Forces of the DR Congo),” one of four CNDP commanders at the ceremony, Colonel Claude Micho, told AFP.

More than 6 200 rebels are to be integrated into the regular army, according to the army chiefs of staff.

However, the International Crisis Group think-tank has called on the Congolese authorities to introduce a vetting mechanism “to exclude significant human rights abusers from the national army and to address issues of accountability”.

It said in a statement that the CNDP and the FARDC had committed “mass crimes and widespread sexual violence” in the province.

It said the rebel chief of staff Bosco Ntaganda in particular “has a horrendous record of causing severe suffering to civilans during his operations”, and had been indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court.

Rebel leaders declared an end to their conflict with Kinshasa last month following an internal rift which sidelined long-time leader Laurent Nkunda.

Nkunda was subsequently arrested in neighbouring Rwanda, his erstwhile sponsor, as the bulk of his rebel force backed a joint operation by Rwandan and Congolese forces to oust Rwandan Hutu FDLR rebels from Nord Kivu, who have been at the centre of more than a decade of unrest in the region.

Sporadic clashes between the Rwandan army and the FDLR, however, have gone on for a week, a rebel spokesperson, Laforge Fils, told AFP on Thursday.

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