In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the National Congress for the People’s Defense rebels led by renegade general Laurent Nkunda have reportedly taken over their stronghold of Mushake, days after government forces forced them to flee the town amid heavy artillery. The rebels claimed they are only defending themselves after government forces attacked their stronghold. They maintained that although President Joseph Kabila is refusing to hold peace talks with them, they are ready for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
Meanwhile, fighting and heavy shelling was reportedly continuing Monday around Goma where most journalists covering the story are based. Rene Abande is the spokesman for the rebels. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that they seek a peaceful resolution to the ongoing conflict.
“We are not attacking government forces, we are just trying to defend and to stop the offensive of government troops because they decided to end with us, and we can’t end without fighting. We are just fighting to defend ourselves and to try to see if the government can hear the way of reason and try to resolve the political problem,” Abande pointed out.
He said the rebels went on the offensive after government forces used heavy artillery against them.
“(We started fighting) because the government came and took Mushake. Mushake was our area; they tried to use heavy material, putting bombs on Mushake. So, since we decided to defend the population there because there is risk of killing our population, there is risk because of those Intarhamwe. The problem is that the government chooses to make an alliance with Intarhamwe, those Rwandese who did genocide in their country so, they want to continue that ideology of killing people,” he said.
Abande said the rebels asked President Kabila’s government to help solve the crisis, but he said their request has so far fallen on deaf ears.
“So we asked the government to solve this problem of Intarhamwe. And we asked the government to allow refugees who are in neighboring countries to come back to Congo, but the government refused, and we can’t allow the Intarhamwe to kill people in this area,” Abande noted.
He accused President Kabila of refusing to have peace talks with the rebels.
“President Kabila says he can’t go on the table with us, that’s the problem because he is ready to talk to our enemies and to make alliances with those Intarhamwe, but with his citizens he doesn’t want it. So, for us until Kabila continues to decide to end with us with fighting, we will defend ourselves,” he maintained.
He said the rebels are now in control of their stronghold of Mushake, but he added that they are continuing to defend themselves.
“Yes… our soldiers are able to fight. Even as we are asking for peace, it doesn’t mean that we don’t have forces. They are strong enough they are well disciplined. They are an army, which can be the beginning of building serious army, and army, which can defend country. So, instead of trying to train this part of the army they are trying to destroy it. But they would not accept to be destroyed, and they would defend themselves and they will continue to defend the people. And we will continue to explain to the nation that we can solve the problem and that we can make a nation, which is untied,” he said.