Page last updated at 16:02 GMT, Saturday, 22 November 2008

DR Congo rebel rallies support

Laurent Nkunda
Laurent Nkunda criticised the deployment of extra UN troops

Rebel DR Congo general Laurent Nkunda has held a rally in the newly captured town of Rutshuru, in a show of strength and defiance by his forces.

Hundreds of local people attended the event in a football stadium in the town, 70km (45 miles) north of the regional capital, Goma.

General Nkunda criticised the planned deployment of 3,000 extra UN troops, saying they would not bring peace.

There has been no fighting in the area for two days, as a ceasefire holds.

The BBC's Thomas Fessy, who was at the rally, says General Nkunda was welcomed by songs and dances when he entered the stadium, and used the occasion to dance with a child.

But our correspondent says it did not seem his audience had much trust in a movement which locals say has only brought fear into their lives, and he seemed to receive only reluctant applause.

Thousands flee

General Nkunda's men have been accused of looting houses in nearby villages, while dozens of children and young adults are believed to have been forcibly recruited in the past few weeks.

Clashes between the army and rebels have created a humanitarian crisis in recent weeks, with an estimated 250,000 people forced to flee their homes.

The rebels withdrew from positions north of the city of Goma on Wednesday to allow aid into the area. The move came after weekend talks with the UN envoy, Olusegun Obasanjo.

On Thursday, the UN Security Council - which first received a request for reinforcements six weeks ago - voted unanimously to send 2,785 more troops and 300 police officers.

The UN force, Monuc, has been criticised for not doing enough to protect people from Tutsi rebels while the army retreated.

Gen Nkunda has said he is fighting to protect his Tutsi community from attack by Rwandan Hutu rebels, some of whom are accused of taking part in the 1994 genocide.

The Security Council voted for the peacekeepers to implement their mandate "in full", through robust rules of engagement.

Map of eastern DR Congo

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