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UN Investigating Dissident Soldiers in DRC - 2004-06-05

U.N. officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo are investigating reports that dissident soldiers who seized the eastern city of Bukavu earlier this week are marching toward other cities. The renegade general who is leading the troops strongly denies this.

A spokesman for the United Nations, Hamadoun Toure, says the U.N. is investigating reports that renegade soldiers, led by General Laurent Nkunda, are marching toward other cities near the border of Rwanda.

He explains the seriousness of the reports.

"If they are moving toward Kisangani this could be a threat to the peace process," he said. "They are going out to be cantoned, that would be very good. If they are withdrawing from Bukavu to go to cantonment sites, that would be fine and good. But, otherwise, if they are proceeding to other places, other localities for just occupying, looting and pillaging, that would be very bad."

General Nkunda's rag-tag army took control of Bukavu on Wednesday. The renegade general says the troops went there after hearing reports of ethnic persecution targeting a minority tribe known as Banyamulenge.

General Nkunda says he subsequently withdrew his troops out of the city, in compliance with a request from the U.N. operation there, but denies his fighters are on the move.

"It's not true. It's not true," he said. "My troops are around Bukavu, in sites which are very known. There is no movement for now."

He says he intends to remain on the periphery of Bukavu, until a government commission arrives there to investigate the claims of ethnic cleansing.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has been struggling to implement a peace accord, signed last year. But recent clashes are jeopardizing the process.

The African Union has asked the United Nations to increase the number of peacekeepers operating there. U.N. spokesman Mr. Toure says more peacekeepers have already been allocated to Bukavu to more than double the number of peacekeepers in the city.