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Armed Group Leader Unhappy Over Exclusion from DRC Cabinet Reshuffle

Peter Clottey | Washington, DC 21 February 2010

A leader of the Mai Mai Kifufua armed group in the Democratic Republic of Congo says his group is disappointed after being excluded from President Joseph Kabila’s latest cabinet reshuffle.

Didier Bitaki said the government flouted a recently signed peace agreement to politically integrate leaders of the group into the government.

“The movement is not happy because as we agreed in Goma when we signed the peace accord, it stated that all the groups after integrating the combatants now the political integration will start. And when we met several times with the high authorities especially the president ministers they were not refusing that they were not going to integrate… the political leaders from the armed groups into the government,” he said.

Congo’s media quoted the prime minister’s office as saying there were no cabinet posts for the former rebels whose units have been integrated into the national army.

But Bitaki said the government has failed to take care of the group’s concerns.

“We will take care of ourselves because nobody is thinking of us. We are going to take care of ourselves by doing what will be possible to do,” Bitaki said.

The former combatants are currently demanding four ministerial positions in President Kabila’s government.

But Information Minister Lambert Mende said the rebels should focus on forming a legitimate political party to participate in next year’s election just like all the other political parties.

“You just don’t grab a ministry just like that. You must come from a party. We have a constitution (and) nobody can go into the government just because he was fighting somewhere. No. they must transform to a political party as did the CNDP (National Congress for People's Defense). They register themselves at the Internal Affairs ministry and join a coalition. They can join the majority coalition which is now assuming the power,” Mende said.

Bitaki said the rebels would take up arms if Kinshasa refuses to address their concerns. But information minister Mende said the government does not kowtow to threats.

President Kabila’s reshuffle whittled down the cabinet from the initial 54 posts to 43 -- a move political observers say will rein in government spending ahead of next year’s general elections.

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