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Last Updated: Monday, 22 October 2007, 08:32 GMT 09:32 UK
DR Congo Mai Mai refuse to disarm
Woman in refugee camp
Thousands have left their homes in the past week
The leader of the Mai Mai militia in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has rejected a government ultimatum to disarm.

The Mai Mai leader, Kasereka Kabamba told the BBC his militia is helping the government fight the renegade general, Laurent Nkunda.

He said his men will not disarm before General Nkunda's men do so.

The Congolese army commander in the Kivus says the Mai Mai militia is hindering the government's campaign.

"I have already given [Kabamba Kasereka] 48 hours to lay down his weapons and turn over the men under his command to reintegration centres," Col Delphin Kahimbi said on Sunday.

Thousands of civilians continue to flee the violence in the region.

KEY FORCES IN THE KIVUS
Map of N Kivu in eastern DR Congo
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

Gen Nkunda says he is defending Congolese Tutsis and has cited the presence in the region of other militia groups as a reason for not disarming.

Clashes between local militias and Laurent Nkunda's force in Bunagana sent refugees flooding into the nearby town of Rutshuru.

Government forces have also been battling Gen Nkunda's men in Bukima town, close to the borders with Rwanda and Uganda.

President Joseph Kabila recently gave the green light for an offensive against Gen Nkunda.

However, the army's present strategy seems to be to harass Gen Nkunda's men, and to cut off the rebels' supply lines from across the border, the BBC's Arnaud Zajtman reports from the region.

Gen Nkunda ignored a Monday deadline to begin disarming his troops. The deadline has since been extended to an unspecified date.

Refugees

More than 370,000 people have been displaced by the fighting in eastern DR Congo since the start of the year, and on Saturday thousands more were on the move, trying to escape fresh outbreaks of violence.

What I saw was horrendous. It was raining. They didn't know where to go
Sylvie Van Den Wildenberg
Monuc spokesperson

Early in the morning refugees began arriving in Rutshuru, having fled from the border town of Bunagana.

"What I saw was horrendous. It was raining. They didn't know where to go. Three women gave birth while they were fleeing," Sylvie Van Den Wildenberg, a spokeswoman in North Kivu province for the UN peacekeeping mission Monuc, told Reuters news agency.

"The humanitarian consequences of whatever is happening there are very serious."

Some refugees are being held in a stadium as they wait for room in a nearby refugee camp.

Other refugees from Bunagana are said to have fled over the border into Uganda.

Medical staff have charged authorities with blocking medical supplies to Gen Nkunda's stronghold of Kichanga. They complain that such measures have a hard impact on civilians.

Gen Nkunda - whose forces are primarily ethnic Tutsi - has accused government forces, Mai Mai militia and Rwandan Hutu rebels operating in the area of colluding against him.

The government denies this, and says it has run out of patience with Gen Nkunda.



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