A renegade general in eastern Congo says government forces have launched new attacks on his positions and that he has no choice but to keep fighting until the government listens to him and lets him rejoin the army. Nick Wadhams has the story from Nairobi.
General Laurent Nkunda tells VOA News that a shaky ceasefire that was agreed to between his forces and government troops is now shattered and that government troops attacked him in the towns of Karuba and Mwesu.
Reports from the region suggest that at least 100 fighters on both sides have been killed in the wave of fighting that began Monday, after Nkunda announced he was launching a fresh offensive. Nkunda, who is Tutsi, says he is protecting people in eastern Congo from Hutu militia who crossed into Congo after the Rwanda genocide.
In his interview with VOA, Nkunda says it was the government that broke the ceasefire mediated by the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the region last month. He accused it of being allied with the Hutu as well as other smaller militias that have sought refuge in eastern Congo.
Nkunda says that when his soldiers are hit, they have to hit back. He says fighting is continuing and that Congolese forces have attacked his men in Karuba and Mwesu. He says they are with the Interahamwe and other groups.
Nkunda's forces have clashed with government troops for years in North Kivu province, and hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes. Renewed clashes in recent weeks have forced tens of thousands of people to flee and have raised fears that eastern Congo could see a repeat of the war that saw four million people die between 1998 and 2004.
The United Nations has dubbed Nkunda the biggest threat to stability in Congo. While he continues to fight, Nkunda argues that the blame for the violence ultimately rests with Congolese President Joseph Kabila.
Nkunda says Kabila is the commander-in-chief of Congo's forces and must listen to the rebels. He says he wants to rejoin the army and respects Kabila as president. He says it is not the time to fight.
There are 17,000 U.N. peacekeepers in Congo, making it the largest peacekeeping force in the world. Yet the United Nations says the latest fighting has made it impossible to reach 150,000 people who rely on relief aid in the region.