Page last updated at 22:11 GMT, Saturday, 29 November 2008

Congo rebel chief threatens 'war'

Gen Nkunda with UN envoy Olusegun Obasanjo in the eastern DRC town of Jomba 29/11/2008
Gen Nkunda (in white) proposes Mr Obasanjo as the mediator of talks

Rebel leader General Laurent Nkunda has threatened war unless the government of DR Congo holds a new round of talks.

He was speaking after a meeting with UN envoy Olusegun Obasanjo in the rebel-held eastern town of Jomba.

Troops loyal to Gen Nkunda have been battling government forces in North Kivu province since August, forcing 250,000 people to flee their homes.

Two weeks ago Mr Obasanjo negotiated a ceasefire, but renewed fighting has since broken out.

"If there is no negotiation, let us say then there is war," Gen Nkunda told reporters.

"I know that (the government) has no capacity to fight, so they have only one choice - negotiations," he said.

"We asked for a response as to where, when, and with whom we are going to do these talks. For us, we propose Nairobi and for the mediator we proposed chief Obasanjo," Mr Nkunda said.

Government ministers this week rebuffed the possibility of direct negotiations with the rebel leader, calling for him to return to an earlier peace pact signed in January.

Advancing peace

Emerging from his one-hour meeting, Mr Obasanjo avoided questions but said: "We have advanced the course of peace."

Mr Obasanjo - Nigeria's former president - is on his second visit to the region in two weeks.

CNDP: Gen Nkunda's Tutsi rebels - 6,000 fighters
FDLR: Rwandan Hutus - 6-7,000
Mai Mai: pro-government militia - 3,500
Monuc: UN peacekeepers - 6,000 in North Kivu, including about 1,000 in Goma (17,000 nationwide)
DRC army - 90,000 (nationwide)
Source: UN, military experts

He has been trying to broker direct talks between Gen Nkunda and Congolese President Joseph Kabila, but so far these have not taken place.

The UN envoy is travelling with former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, who is representing the African Union.

"I'm going to listen to him," Mr Mkapa said ahead of the meeting with Gen Nkunda.

"I want to know how he thinks we can get the restoration of peace, stability and unity in this country."

Truce violated

A ceasefire declared by Gen Nkunda has halted battles with government troops and brought nearly two weeks of relative calm.

But his men have continued attacking Congolese and Rwandan militia allies of the government, sending thousands of refugees fleeing east into Uganda.

Gen Nkunda says the ceasefire does not apply to operations against foreign militia.

On Thursday, the rebels took the border town of Ishasha, about 120km (75 miles) north of regional capital Goma.

His Tutsi-dominated forces say they are attacking Rwandan Hutu fighters, some of whom are accused of taking part in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in which some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered.

On Friday, the UN began an operation to relocate people from camps near the front line.

Some 65,000 people displaced by fighting have been living only a few hundred metres from fighting positions in Kibati, near Goma.

The UN is trying to transfer people to safer locations west of Goma.


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