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Congo's President Calls For More UN Assistance


Congolese President Joseph Kabila has told world leaders at the United Nations general assembly that his country, the DRC, needs more U.N. help to disarm and repatriate foreign armed groups. The speech comes after weeks of unrest in the Eastern North Kivu province, where army troops have battled with ethnic Tutsi fighters. Thousands of U.N. peacekeepers already operate in the region. Selah Hennessy reports from VOA's West and Central Africa bureau in Dakar.

President Kabila says insecurity in North Kivu must be stopped and that the Congolese people are suffering from daily conflict in the country.

He says Congo needs U.N. help to disarm, voluntarily or by force, repatriate and reintegrate foreign-armed groups.

Despite a U.N.-mediated ceasefire in early September, battles between the army and ethnic-Tutsi fighters have been waged in North Kivu in the eastern region since late August.

The rebel fighters, led by renegade army general Laurent Nkunda, say they are fighting to protect ethnic Tutsis against attacks by ethnic Hutu rebels accused of involvement in the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda.

Rwanda's president Paul Kagame also spoke at the U.N. conference. He said continued insecurity in the eastern DRC is hindering peace throughout the region.

He also said the UN's peacekeeping force in the DRC, known as MONUC, has not done enough to rout out Hutu fighters.

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

He says he would welcome an increase in U.N. forces.

But like Mr. Kagame, he says so far he believes the U.N. is not doing enough to counter ethnic Hutu combatants, known as FDLR, in the region.

"They can do a good job, but the problem is with the government of Congo," he said. "The government of Congo, it still gives them the wrong information, it does not want them to fight that group of FDLR."

Konokele accuses Congo's army of fighting alongside the Hutu rebels.

"They are mixed, mixed. FDLR and the government they are mixed and then they attack our troops," he added.

But MONUC spokesman Michel Bonnardeaux says the accusation is unfounded.

"There is no evidence that the FDLR is with the Congolese army," he said. "As far as we know the FDLR are in their own camps and in their own areas and they are certainly not part of the national army."

He says MONUC is doing everything within its mandate to disarm and repatriate FDLR fighters to Rwanda.

Congo's government has repeatedly denied fighting alongside the FDLR, while accusing Rwanda's army of backing Nkunda's fighters. Rwanda's government denies the charges.

These charges and counter-charges have been exchanged ever since Rwanda's genocide, and the subsequent flood of refugees, including former fighters into eastern Congo.

Gus Selassie is an Africa analyst at the international research group Global Insight.

He says it is unlikely that the U.N. will increase its forces in Congo.

"I don't think there is the political will by the U.N. to add more troops given commitments elsewhere, like Darfur," he noted.

He also says the U.N. does not have the personnel to deal with FDLR forces in the east.

"You still get the feeling that the UN is preoccupied with other issues, and it does not have the personnel, the resources, and the stomach to confront the FDLR, unless the FDLR attacks civilians, villages - that kind of thing," he added. "The UN is just doing a containing job and not really taking them head-on."

Fighting in eastern Congo is what has led to recent wars in Congo, the last of which caused the death of at least 4 million people, according to most estimates.

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