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Former Congolese Rebels Desert DRC Army


Hundreds of former rebels have deserted the Congolese army in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, citing complaints about pay and their assigned military ranks. The U.N. mission in Congo says discussions with the breakaway group are ongoing.

The group's renegade battalion, led by a former rebel militia officer known as Jaguar, deserted the Congolese army late Friday in the eastern province of North Kivu, though the rebellion was not reported until Tuesday.

The former rebels then attacked a local village 10 kilometers away, injuring civilians and stealing goods.

Jaguar was a commander under the rebel National Congress for the Defense of the People, known by its French initials of CNDP, led by Congolese Tutsi rebel Laurent Nkunda.

Nkunda, whose rebellion was once allegedly supported by the Rwandan government, was captured by Rwandan forces earlier this year and continues to be held by Rwandan authorities.

The CNDP signed a peace treaty with Kinshasa in March, and its soldiers were integrated into the ranks of the Congolese army.

Lieutenant Colonel Jean-Paul Dietrich, a spokesman for the U.N. mission in Congo, known as MONUC, says that three main reasons were given for the desertion.

"The reasons brought up varies, saying that they were not satisfied with delayed pay, the difference in salaries between the Congolese soldiers and the newly integrated ones, and some kind of dissatisfaction with the ranks which was given to him [Jaguar] and other people," said Colonel Dietrich.

The soldiers have reportedly not received any pay in five months.

According to Dietrich, negotiations with the breakaway faction began about two days ago.

"We are quite optimistic that the problem will be resolved very soon," he said. "We have created a dialogue between his brigade commander and other officers of the military [and Jaguar], and what was told to us is that they will try to settle this problem peacefully."

Dietrich says that Jaguar first asked the non-CNDP soldiers in his battalion to leave, and then led his men to a hill near the border of Uganda.

MONUC has increased its patrols in the area to try to protect against any possible future attack by the renegade soldiers.

At least 6,000 CNDP were re-integrated into the official Congolese army following the peace deal.

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