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Kivu Residents Press Kabila to Hold Talks with DRC Renegade General Nkunda

Residents of restive North Kivu are demanding Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila hold talks with renegade army general Laurent Nkunda to resolve the escalated violence in the region. The residents say the rebel leader's call for direct talks with President Kabila's government after meeting the United Nations special envoy could bring about peace in the region. Nkunda met with UN special envoy Olusegun Obasanjo, the former Nigerian President, Sunday to discuss the escalated violence between rebels and the national army. Nkunda promised during the meeting to respect the recently signed ceasefire, to open a humanitarian corridor to aid refugees and support the United Nations peace initiative. Jack Kahora covers the DRC for the Voice of America. He tells reporter Peter Clottey from North Kivu's capital, Goma that the UN special envoy seems to have made an inroad towards finding peace in the region.

"The latest development is that President Olusegun Obasanjo visited the region and he immediately flew to meet the positions of the government forces and the rebels and wanted to see how closer they were before organizing a meeting with the United Nations as well as the local authorities. Yesterday, Sunday, he decided to go and meet the renegade army general Laurent Nkunda with whom they discussed a number of issues," Kahora said.

He said the former Nigerian president met with the rebel leader to hear his side of claims and demands to Kinshasa.

"According to Obasanjo, the discussions centered around the claims Nkunda has been making to the government. Among them is the problem of FDLR (Front Démocratique pour la Libération de Rwanda/Democratic Front for the Liberation of Rwanda), which is the Rwanda militia who are based in the DRC. He was also asking for talks between the government and his movement, as well as having talks about political issues, economic issues and security. And then, they agreed on the ceasefire between the government and the rebels as well as open the corridor, which would enable humanitarian organizations to bring assistance to the IDPS (internally Displaced Persons)," he said.

Kahora said President Kabila's government has yet to act on demands by the rebels for direct talks after the rebel leader agreed to back the United Nations peace initiative.

"Up to now, nothing has been done because they are still waiting for the return of President Obasanjo. After Goma, he flew to Kigali to speak to the authorities there and then Kinshasa is awaiting his arrival for briefing, and then their position would be given. However, the governor of North Kivu said they are already in talks and added that it would start talking to the rebels locally before the next meeting in Nairobi can be organized. But up to now the date of the Nairobi meeting is not known yet until Obasanjo meet Kabila to discuss all these issues," Kahora pointed out.

He said the rebel leader's immediate demand for direct talks with President Kabila might not materialize as soon as he would want.

"President Obasanjo said that the direct talks demanded by the rebel leader might not be possible. He said that there are some limits in the claims of Laurent Nkunda, adding that there is a constitution, which the government has on its side because it was officially elected and advised the rebels to have limits in his demand. So we don't know how this would be done, and we don't know if Nkunda believes in President Obasanjo, although he claims he has confidence in the former Nigerian president. But we would see in the coming days if Nkunda is not happy, he would pursue fighting on the ground," he said.

Meanwhile, the former Nigerian president said the talks he held with the renegade army general went "extremely well". He adds that the rebel leader agreed to a tripartite committee to monitor any violations of the recently signed ceasefire, but strongly objected to the involvement of the United Nations peacekeeping force (MONUC). Nkunda maintains the UN mission in the DRA has been siding with the national army and fighting his rebels.