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Congo Militia Come Forward to Disarm

28 February 2007

A U.N. official has announced members of a notorious militia group in northeast Democratic Republic of Congo have come forward to disarm. Franz Wild has the details for VOA from Kinshasa.

The U.N. Mission in Congo's military spokesman, Didier Rancher, announced Wednesday 170 fighters surrendered to the Congolese army and the U.N. mission, MONUC.

They are members of the National Integrationist Front militia, which has been reluctant to join a national program to disarm rebel groups and integrate into the national army.

Rancher said the FNI had missed several deadlines in the past.

"It has been a long process starting in mid-December when we had the first agreement with the chief of this group, Peter Karim. He signed at the time and promised to join the demobilization process," he said.

Rancher added that a recent military campaign against the FNI, left them isolated and with no option but to give up.

"We put on big military pressure from the 30th of January," he said. "We started a containment operation. Unfortunately roughly 50 militia[men] we killed in the fire fights. After this, Peter Karim was only in one village northeast of Fataki. Because of this he was cut [off] from his supply chain."

Karim personally returned into hiding in the bush, Rancher said, but promised he would send more men to disarm next week.

Forty-two of those who had come forward Tuesday were children, the United Nations said. They were separated from the other fighters and taken into care by children's rights groups.

Congo's east remains unstable. Its poorly trained army is unable to control rebels groups, even with the support of 14,000 Monuc peacekeepers.

A 1998-2002 war left four million people dead, most of whom died from starvation or disease.

Elections last year confirmed President Joseph Kabila in office. The international community accepts them as the first democratic polls in Congo in four decades. The government, which was approved by parliament Saturday, now faces the challenge of rebuilding a country the size of Western Europe.

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