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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 June, 2004, 14:26 GMT 15:26 UK
DR Congo rebel lifts war threat
Dissident soldier in DR Congo
Rebels took Bukavu to 'protect' the Banyamulenge
The rebel general who threatened to recapture the Democratic Republic of Congo town of Bukavu says his demands have now been met.

"We will not wage war and we will not move from our positions unless the army attacks us," General Laurent Nkunda told AFP news agency.

He briefly held Bukavu, jeopardising the fragile peace deal which ended five years of war in DR Congo.

The United Nations has dismissed his claims to be preventing a genocide.

Gen Nkunda had said that his fellow ethnic Banyamulenges were being targeted and killed by the army.

But the head of a team of UN investigators could only confirm the death of four Banyamulenge civilians in recent clashes.

Robert Ricci said there was widespread and systematic looting and rape committed when Gen Nkunda's forces controlled Bukavu.

No intent

"The allegation of genocide happening in Bukavu... is something we can disregard - there is nothing on the ground that lends any credibility to this claim," Robert Ricci head of the UN investigators told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

Brig Gen Laurent Nkunda
Are we going to let the massacres continue? We cannot
Laurent Nkunda
Dissident officer

"Genocide is a complex crime, it also includes the intent to destroy in part or all of a particular group of society and from our investigation this intent to kill can certainly not be proved," he said.

Gen Nkunda had threatened to recapture Bukavu if the government did not set up a commission to investigate alleged atrocities against the Banyamulenge ethnic group.

Mr Ricci said that during the recent clashes in Bukavu crimes had been committed by both sides, and he confirmed at least 66 deaths.

Crimes perpetrated by the regular army are already being investigated by the military prosecutor, but the UN has no information that there is any attempt on the side of the rebels to pursue justice, he said.

Children raped

From the interviews conducted by the UN in Bukavu, patterns are emerging of the systematic rape of children by troops loyal to rebel commanders.

"Soldiers were looking for the youngest female in the household then... (there was) mass rape," Mr Ricci said.

Weeks of insecurity between government loyalists and Gen Nkunda's rebels are proving the most serious threat to DR Congo's fragile peace process aimed at ending years of conflict in central Africa.

Some 20,000 Banyamulenge refugees have since fled to Burundi, terrified of renewed fighting.

Rwanda denied Congolese government accusations that it was backing Gen Nkunda.


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