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Kinshasa Agrees to Grant Amnesty to Rebels

Residents of North Kivu province have welcomed a signed agreement between Kinshasa and the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) that paves the way for the rebel group to transform itself into a political party. The agreement signed Monday provides for the Tutsi rebels transformation into a political body and the release of former members of the rebel group captured by government forces. Kinshasa also agreed to pass an amnesty law for the former rebels and integrate them into various state security agencies. Desire Kamanzi is the chairman of the CNDP rebels and a signatory of the agreement with the government. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that absolute peace will soon return to restive North Kivu province.

"What we have come up with mainly are that we talked of amnesty and the government expressed its commitment to give amnesty to everyone who has been engaged in fighting the war starting from 2003 up to today. And we also have an implementation plan of everything that we have come up with including the return of refugees and the internally displaced. We also have a program of integration of CNDP police into the government police, and there are different other things that were discussed," Kamanzi noted.

He said the rebels were demanding the release of all political prisoners during their insurgency.

"In fact, you know there are prisoners who were arrested by the government because of them joining the CNDP. So if you want to harmonize and have everything under control, then you need to go the extra mile to ensure that happens. So we have our people to be released. We want the release of all those prisoners in different towns and cities of DRC. Starting from Kinshasa and from Goma here, and we have a list, and we have agreed with the government that they should be released very soon," he said.

Kamanzi said both parties agreed to begin within a period to ensure the agreement is fully implemented.

"In fact we have a clear plan about that. We know that day one we will be doing this or that and day two to, day three, day four to, day 19 when the refugees will be coming back from the neighboring countries. And for example by day 15 from today, our political party would be agreed to by the government. And we also know that there would be a mid-term review. We have a joint commission that will be national, and we have also the international committee, mainly from our international facilitators," Kamanzi pointed out.

He said there are reasons to believe that with the signing of the agreement, peace will finally be restored to restive North Kivu province.

"If you come and walk around, for example, you will find out that people are now moving freely. They have started with their businesses, and you can even see that those people who were affected by the war are moving freely. In fact things are moving well and you can see it from the population here in Goma about how happy they are. So everything has gone back to normal," he said.

The agreement between President Joseph Kabila's government and the rebels was monitored by the African Union representatives including Nigeria's former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Tanzania's former President Benjamin Mkapa.

The deal provides for the CNDP "to agree to transform itself into a political party and fulfill the formalities legally required to this end"and for it "to undertake to pursue from now on the search for solutions to its concerns by strictly political paths and in the respect of institutional order and the order of the republic."

Earlier this year, a joint operation by the Rwandan and Congolese military over five weeks drove Rwandan Hutu rebels of the Front for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) to the west and north of the province, but failed to end the threat they pose.

Some political analysts believe that after the defection of the CNDP leadership and the arrest of renegade army General Laurent Nkunda in Rwanda earlier this year, the situation in North Kivu has improved significantly. But problems posed by other rebel groups remain.