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Military Escalation Likely in DRC Say Analysts

14 September 2007

The United Nations says Congolese president Joseph Kabila's latest comments on getting rebel forces to join the army marked a positive step towards bringing peace to the volatile North Kivu region, which has seen heavy fighting in recent weeks. Mr. Kabila called on the rebel fighters to rejoin the national army and said he would hold talks to solve the conflict in Kivu. But the dissidents say he is still refusing to negotiate with them, and analysts say he seems to favor a military solution. Selah Hennessy reports from the VOA West and Central Africa bureau in Dakar.

Bwambale Konokele is a military commander for the dissident ethnic-Tutsi fighters.

Following Mr. Kabila's news conference, Konokele says his fighters do want to rejoin the national army. But he says certain issues must be addressed first.

"About the negotiations we are ready but the problem is still on the side of the government."

The ethnic Tutsi fighters say the government must ensure the safety of Tutsis living in the eastern Congo from attacks by ethnic Hutu former rebels. They also call for the return to Congo of Tutsi refugees living in Rwanda.

Michel Bonnardeaux is a mission spokesman for MONUC, the United Nations peacekeeping force in DRC.

He says the government seems to be taking a positive step towards reconciliation.

"President Kabila said that he favors the integration of the army as an option and that he also said that he would hold a conference on the Kivus so we are counting on the fact that the Kivu conference will happen and that they will find some kind of understanding at that point."

But David Mugnier, the Central Africa project director for the non-governmental organization International Crisis Group, says the president's speech Thursday was not encouraging.

He says the president, who said dissident troops will face forcible disarmament if they do not agree to rejoin the army, looks to be favoring a military resolution in North Kivu.

"President Kabila in his conference yesterday did not reassure us because he said there was no peace talks on the agenda for the moment. Although he referred to a peace conference that could take place in the coming weeks but he did not provide any details."

He says both sides seem to be heading towards military confrontation.

"We know that both sides are still ready to fight and we do not see any initiative to restore peace in the region for the moment."

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization has increased the size of its medical team in the South in an effort to fight an Ebola epidemic which has killed over 100 people.

Health officials say they are desperately looking for an additional 100 people who are thought to have been in contact with the highly contagious virus.

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