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Hundreds in East Congo March Against Rebel Leader

Hundreds of people in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo city of Goma marched Friday calling for an end to a rebellion led by renegade general Laurent Nkunda. In recent weeks civil society leaders in the provincial capital have been speaking out against Nkunda while government troops have clashed in deadly battles with his troops just outside the city. Kari Barber has more from Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Demonstrators on motorcycles, bicycles and on foot carried banners across the city, finally stopping in front of the military headquarters.

The civil society leaders and others who joined in the march say they are showing their support for the government offensive to rout out the renegade general Laurent Nkunda.

The government launched an offensive against the general who has controlled areas in the east of the country near the border with Rwanda. Nkunda says with his militia, about 4,000-strong, he is trying to protect his ethnic Tutsi minority group.

However, marcher Bulombo Delpin says he once supported Nkunda, but now thinks he has gone too far.

"He is making people suffer much," he said. "For a long time we supported him, but now we refuse."

Nkunda is accused of forcibly recruiting child soldiers as well as other human rights violations including rape.

Marchers called for Nkunda to step down, to turn himself in - some called for his death.

However Papy Zanzu, watching the march from the side of the street, says he does not think getting rid of Nkunda will solve the country's problems.

Zanzu says the roots of the problems are deeper than chasing Nkunda, which he says is a part of the answer. But, he says, there is no guarantee that the country's poverty and instability will end with Nkunda. He says the government and civil society should focus more attention on paying police and soldier salaries and development and less on fighting Nkunda.

Government military officials say they are using about 20,000 soldiers to combat Nkunda's rebels. Monday and Tuesday the offensive pushed the rebels out of towns they had previously held for some time.