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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
18 January 2007

DRC-RWANDA: UN official welcomes deal with dissident general

KINSHASA , 18 Jan 2007 (IRIN) - An agreement between the army and a dissident general to end his rebellion in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) would allow thousands of refugees and displaced people to return home, said a United Nations official.

"This agreement is good for the return of the population who had been displaced within the country or outside in neighbouring countries," Eusebe Hounsokou, the representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to the DRC, said on Thursday in the capital, Kinshasa.

He said if implemented, the deal would also allow humanitarian operators to monitor the movement of civilians in areas where fighting between Laurent Nkunda's men and the regular army had occurred.

He added that if the region's security situation improved, UN humanitarian and other aid agencies would conduct a joint mission with the Congolese authorities to determine the conditions of the displaced civilians.

The deputy army commander of the North Kivu Military Region, Col Delphin Kahindi, said Nkunda, who has been leading a rebellion in North Kivu against the government, had agreed to end his rebellion and go into exile in exchange for withdrawal of an arrest warrant against him.

"The government has dropped all charges against Laurent Nkunda, and he has accepted to end attacks against the regular army, hand over his fighters and leave North Kivu Province," Kahindi said.

He said the agreement, which came into force on Wednesday, was a result of several meetings mediated by the Rwandan government between Nkunda and the Congolese chief of staff, Gen John Numbi.

A military official, who requested anonymity, told IRIN that the agreement would allow Nkunda to go into exile in South Africa through Rwanda.

During the fighting in Sake, 60km north of the Goma, capital of North Kivu, and nearby villages in November and early December 2006, tens of thousands of civilians were displaced, including 20,000 people who crossed the border into Uganda.

Some people had been crossing the border at night into neighbouring countries and returning to their villages during the day. "Others stay in Congo with families in neighbouring villages but return when a little calm is restored before setting out again when new fighting breaks out so it is difficult to know their exact number," Hounsokou said.

In December 2006, DRC President Joseph Kabila agreed to a deal with Nkunda during a tour of Sake. Kabila's trip took place just after Nkunda's forces had launched attacks in the area.

Meanwhile, two army brigades arrived on Wednesday in Mweso, previously controlled by Nkunda, while some of Nkunda's men entered camps for reintegration into the national army.



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