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Some Congolese Disappointed with Rebel Integration Failure 

Democratic Republic of Congo residents of the restive North Kivu province are criticizing President Joseph Kabila's government after a scheduled integration of rebels into the national army failed Wednesday. The failure cast doubt on whether a recent hasty change in alliances that spurred hopes for peace can hold. President Kabila's government had arranged for former rebels loyal to renegade army General Laurent Nkunda to be integrated into the national army after recently signing a peace agreement with the government. But the rebels reportedly began leaving the scheduled area for the integration exercise and accused the government of poor planning. Jack Kahora, who was at the integration site, told reporter Peter Clottey the rebels were not too happy about the failure of the integration exercise.

"In fact the integration which should have taken place yesterday morning was not organized anymore. In Goma, all the authorities and the different delegations, which should take part in this mission waited since the morning to 12 0'clock, and it was only around noon that the people were told that there would be no more ceremony," Kahora pointed out.

He said the rebels refused to be part of Wednesday's integration exercise after it accused the government of not heeding their call for a joint commission to smoothen the process of the exercise.

"According to what we heard, the CNDP (National Congress for the Defense of the People) refused to attend the integration process simply because according to their statement which they made on the 16th January 2009, which suggested that the joint commission organized between the national army and the rebels so that they can both define the way the integration should be organized. But instead of making the joint commission, the government was in a hurry to cause the CNDP to join the integration before the commission is constituted," He said.

Kahora said the rebels were right in accusing the government of poor planning leading to Wednesday's failure to integrate the rebels into the national army.

"It is quite normal because since even the settlement of the rebels was made even any Congolese here were surprised because the process was going to quickly that people do no longer trust the process. Imagine after the rebels made a statement a day after it's another group of rebels who also signed another settlement. And the day after we could see Rwandan forces come into DRC and any Congolese who saw those troops coming didn't understand what was exactly happening. And today we could see so many troops and things were moving too quickly and has made people not to trust what is going on the ground. They think there is a hidden agenda clouded like a peace in the northern part of Congo," Kahora noted.

He said there is need for both the government and the rebels to hold negotiations ahead of an integration of the rebels into the national army.

"In fact what is expected now is that they have to sit down, I mean the governmental forces or representatives of the government of Congo and the rebels and come up with a joint commission. They also have to agree on some principles on how the integration should be organized and also agree on the role of the commanders as well as the roles of the rebels. After they agree on these principles then they can come up with a plan on what next to do. But I do know that the rebels are not ready to join the national army before a joint commission is established and the principles agreed on these issues," he said.

As part of the deal with President Kabila's government, rebels of a splinter National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) faction led by Bosco Ntaganda said they would operate under army command and eventually integrate into army ranks. They also gave back to the national army territory they controlled.

Meanwhile by early afternoon Wednesday over a hundred rebels from the Tutsi National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) who turned up had boarded trucks and left the scheduled Rumangabo military camp in North Kivu.