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Congo Rebel Leader Disarmed after Fleeing to Rwanda - 2004-06-22


One of two Congolese rebel leaders still active in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo has been disarmed after fleeing to Rwanda. But Congo says arms are still coming into the country further north. Visiting British and American diplomats in Kinshasa are trying to seek a peaceful resolution to Congo's latest crisis.

Colonel Jules Mutebusi, one of the dissident Congolese army officers leading a rebellion in the east of the country, fled to Rwanda late Monday and authorities there say he has been disarmed.

A Rwandan army spokesman says Colonel Mutebusi and at least 300 of his soldiers crossed into Rwanda from Kamanyola, a town they have controlled for about two weeks, and were disarmed.

U.N. personnel and diplomats from Kigali went to the site where the men are being held and confirmed the reports. The U.N. mission also confirms that government troops are now in control of Kamanyola.

At the beginning of June, Colonel Mutebusi and fellow renegade officer General Laurent Nkunda, both from a former Rwandan backed rebel group R.C.D.-Goma, captured the border town of Bukavu, sparking the most serious threat to Congo's transitional government.

The unrest in the east and an apparent failed coup in Kinshasa on June 11th, have put the peace process in jeopardy. Congo has since sent an estimated 10,000 soldiers to the east, prompting Rwanda to accuse Congo of preparing to invade.

High-level diplomatic delegations have been sent from London and Washington to try and resolve this latest crisis peacefully.

The U.S. delegation is being led by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Donald Yamamoto. He told reporters in Kinshasa he went to Congo because of Washington's deep concern for the crisis in Congo and to express the Bush administration's support for the transitional government.

Rwanda had invaded Congo twice in the past eight years, initially saying that it was doing so to defeat Hutu rebels based in the east. Following peace deals in 2002, Rwanda officially withdrew its troops.

Despite Rwanda's disarmament of Colonel Mutebusi's renegade soldiers, Congo accuses Rwanda of supplying arms and men to rebel groups further north of Bukavu.

Observers are calling the latest build up of troops unprecedented and warn of a possibility of renewed conflict.

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