Congolese have welcomed as good news the signing of an agreement between Kinshasa and various armed groups in the country which is expected to end rebel insurgency in the restive North Kivu province and surrounding areas. Under the agreement, the former combatants would be integrated into the national army while their political wings would be allowed to form political parties. They would then be able to participate in future general elections organized by the Democratic Republic of Congo's electoral commission.
Jack Kahora, VOA's correspondent in the DRC, reports the United Nations Mission in the country and the national army have been mandated by the agreement to deal decisively with any more rebel insurgency.
"In fact in North Kivu there were so many armed groups and over the weekend all of them decided to drop their weapons to join the national army. They said that they are going to stop everything they are doing as armed groups and that they are going to integrate into the national army," Kahora said.
He said under the agreement the various armed groups would be transformed into political parties to participate in future elections.
"Now, you know most of the armed groups have two branches, the military branch as well as the political branch. Now the political branch of these armed groups would become political parties whereas the military branch would be integrated into the national army and this is what was decided during the agreement," he said.
Kahora said there would be serious consequences if any of the armed groups fails to keep its part of the agreement by taking up arms and beginning an insurgency.
"The authorities however said that any armed group which will continue fighting on the ground as an armed group would be considered as a group of bandits which would be severely dealt with or neutralized by the national army," Kahora pointed out.
He said the genesis of the various armed group was fighters crossing the borders of the various neighboring countries to fight in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
"Most of these armed groups existed because of fighting which used to come from Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda. And those are mainly Mai Mai groups, Mai Mai are local armed groups which existed because they claim they are protecting the land of their ancestors. And as the CNDP (National Congress for the Defense of the People) was accused of having Rwanda as its main backer, Rwanda being a foreign country that is why most of the armed groups became very active," he said.
Kahora said that after the arrest of Congo's renegade army general his rebel movement significantly weakened prompting other armed groups to begin negotiations with Kinshasa.
"As you know, since January the CNDP weakened with the arrest of Laurent Nkunda who was their leader and his soldiers or rebels integrated into the national army. So as the CNDP in principle no longer exists, the various armed groups decided to integrate as well into the national army because there are no more enemies to fight on the ground," Kahora noted.
He said the United Nations Mission in the DRC (MONUC) would be working closely with President Joseph Kabila's government to find a lasting solution to the country's insecurity problems.
"In the speeches given at the ceremony over the weekend, the Kinshasa government said that the national army that is the FRDC (Congolese National Army) and MONUC as going to work together and see how they can work strongly on the ground and see how they can neutralize those FDLR (Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda) and any other armed group which has not integrated into the national army. But we are yet to see how they are going to put this into action since this is not the first time such an initiative has been announced and it never worked. FDRC and MONUC in the past announced joint operations but things never got better but as it were before the announcement were made. So there was no change at all," he said.