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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 October 2007, 09:54 GMT 10:54 UK
DR Congo rebel in ceasefire plea
Renegade Congolese Tutsi General
Gen Nkunda says he is protecting DR Congo's Tutsi community
Rogue General Laurent Nkunda has called for a new ceasefire in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo to protect people displaced in recent fighting.

He issued the appeal after his troops withdrew from the key town of Karuba after days of battling army troops.

"Last time we were fighting in mountains, now we are in the population area... It's difficult to continue firing in this area," he told the BBC.

Both the army and Gen Nkunda accuse the other of breaking a recent ceasefire.

The government had given the rebel general an ultimatum of 15 October to cease hostilities and integrate his forces into the army or face tough action.

But Gen Nkunda says he was preparing to start integrating his fighters back into the national army when he was attacked.

White tents

The UN says the renewed fighting has made it hard to reach more than 300,000 people who rely on food aid, while 150,000 remain out of reach.

An army commander told the BBC that 85 rebels and 16 soldiers had been killed in recent battles.

Gen Nkunda appealed to the UN, which has about 4,300 soldiers in North Kivu alone, to help implement a ceasefire.

KEY FORCES IN THE KIVUS
map
FLNK - new group made up mainly of Congolese Mai Mai with some Rwandan Hutus formerly in the FDLR
FDLR - Hutu militia made up of former Rwandan soldiers and others who fled into Congo after the 1994 genocide
Congolese army
Gen Laurent Nkunda, with an estimated 5,000 soldiers
Monuc - UN Mission in the DR Congo

"I'm asking it also to the president because this population who is fleeing and who are suffering are his people," he told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

The rebel leader rejected the suggestion that he would use a ceasefire to regroup and re-arm and insists he is fighting to protect DR Congo's Tutsi minority.

He accuses the government of supporting Rwandan Hutu rebels - the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) - who fled to DR Congo after the genocide in Rwanda in 1994.

And he appealed for the government not to allow the FDLR, who the UN estimates to number about 6,000, to operate in the Massisi mountains.

"It's the only area where Tutsis are in (DR) Congo now; if FDLR can operate here it's difficult for us to manage," the general said.

He has previously accused the Congolese army of working with other local militia and the FDLR to attack him.

The BBC's Arnaud Zajtman in Gen Nkunda's stronghold of Mushaki - 50km west of Goma - says thousands of ethnic Tutsis have flooded into the area.

Displaced in DR Congo
More than 300,000 people have sought shelter in camps

White tents have been set up all around the small mountain town.

"We feel protected. Our problem is with the Interahamwe - those who committed the genocide in Rwanda," one woman told our reporter.

"We are scared of them because they may come here and kill us. That's why we decided to gather together and seek protection from the men of Laurent Nkunda."

At a nearby hospital, a senior FDLR soldier admitted his forces were battling Gen Nkunda.

"We're not allies of the government troops; we're not enemies either," he told the BBC.

"It's logical as we have a common enemy in Laurent Nkunda we can fight with the same objective," he said.

"But we don't co-ordinate."

He said the FDLR would not disarm as the Rwandan government refused to negotiate with them.

"We're still strong and we want to return to Rwanda with pride."

A five-year war ended in 2003, but UN peacekeepers have struggled to keep a lid on instabilty since then.

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