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MONUC Demands DRC Rebels Relinquish Seized Army Base

The United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) is demanding rebels loyal to renegade army general Laurent Nkunda to relinquish an army base it seized yesterday (Sunday). Nkunda's National Congress for the defense of People (CNDP) rebel group reportedly seized an east Congo army base and the headquarters of a refuge housing some of the world's last mountain gorillas, in heavy fighting that left unknown number of soldiers, rebels and civilians killed in the renewed fighting in the restive North Kivu province.

The rebel attack marked the second time rebels have seized the Congolese national Army Rumangabo base since Aug. 28, when renegade army general Laurent Nkunda went on the offensive charging that government troops had broken a January cease-fire agreement.

Michel Bonnardeaux is the spokesman for MONUC. He tells reporter Peter Clottey from the Congolese capital, Kinshasa that the rebels also attacked a United Nations convoy after seizing the Congolese army base.

"Indeed yesterday (Sunday) in the early hours of the morning the CNDP that is the rebel group led by general Laurent Nkunda attacked a military camp called Rumangabo, which is 50 kilometers north of Goma, the provincial capital and not very far from Rwanda. Now, they took over the camp about 10 days ago and had withdrawn once the UN had pressured them to do so because it is outside their zone of influence and outside of what we call the separation zone between the two forces. So that is what happened yesterday," Bonnardeaux pointed out.

He said the United Nations mission in the DRC is demanding the rebels return the seized army base to the government.

"Once again we've asked them to leave the premises and return it to the national army and the national army was also occupying another village called Tongo and they also withdrew from that village after UN pressure and it was later taken over by the CNDP rebels. So, pressure is ongoing," he said.

Bonnardeaux said expressed its displeasure to the rebel command after they attacked a United Nations convoy.

"The new thing today is that the CNDP rebels shot at two APC those are armor personal carriers of the UN as the UN was trying to maintain security along the major roads between Goma and Ruturu," Bonnardeaux noted.

He said although the United Nations is trying to maintain peace in the restive north Kivu, it would not tolerate any rebel attacks on its forces adding that the UN would soon demand both opposing parties abide by the already signed agreement.

"That moment is certainly coming. The UN has a lot of patience, but certainly when we get shot at it becomes very worrisome and we've made it very clear to the rebels that we would not fathom this kind of behavior," he pointed out.

Bonnardeaux said the United Nations Mission in the DRC is providing a safe zone for civilians in the restive north Kivu region to move about to more safe areas.

"That is the principal reason why we were maintaining security around the major passages in order for people who wish to flee and people who are fleeing from the combat zone for them to do it safely. Now, the MONUC position continues to be the implementation of the peace process that was negotiated back in January, and this attack today is really a set back and it does not help the situation at all. It also doesn't help the CNDP in what they are complaining, which is a concerted attack by the national army on the Hutu rebels that are still roaming around the hills of eastern Congo and threatening certain ethnic groups in that area," Bonnardeaux said.

He said it would a bad strategic move if the rebel attack forms part of Nkunda's plan to take over the country.

"Well, if that is what he was trying to do then it's the wrong way because that is eastbound attacks whereas Kinshasa would be the other about 2000 kilometers. So, no, I don't think that is a major offensive on the country. as you know the country is absolutely very huge, which is over two million kilometers," he noted.