DR Congo minister warns rebels

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo (AFP) — A top Democratic Republic of Congo minister warned Monday of tough action against a renegade general whose fighters have rejected a peace deal and launched new attacks.

Interior Minister Denis Kalume pledged that the government would do "all in its power to impose peace" in the eastern DR Congo, where the forces of rebel general Laurent Nkunda have clashed with the army.

A deal signed in January, known as the Goma Agreement, committed the warring factions in the Nord Kivu region to a ceasefire, but armed clashes have continued and there have been numerous attacks on civilians.

The minister accused Nkunda's National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) of holding the peace deal "hostage".

All the groups who signed the January peace accords in Goma, "respect the accords with the exception of the only group who is taking the programme hostage, the CNDP," Kalume told reporters during a visit to the Nord Kivu provincial capital Goma.

The CNDP "will suffer the consequences of its acts," warned the minister.

Kalume reported fresh clashes early Monday on the border between the provinces of North and South Kivu.

Nkunda loyalists and government forces have skirmished regularly in the hills of North Kivu since August 28, with both sides blaming each other for the violence.

On Saturday, UN peacekeepers demanded that Nkunda's group withdraw from a position it seized in combat with government forces near Rutshuru, some 65 kilometres (40 miles) north of Goma.

Since then, UN "combat helicopters have overflown the zone in order to prevent any new attempts to violate the rules of engagement of the Goma peace deal," said the UN force, known by its French acronym MONUC.

When MONUC made a similar demand on government forces last week, they were accused of siding with Nkunda and attacked by demonstrators in Rutshuru, north of Goma.

One UN vehicle was burned and the peacekeepers had to open fire to withdraw, wounding one demonstrator.

Jean-Louis Kayitenkore
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