In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the rebel leader of the National Congress for the People’s Defense, General Laurent Nkunda, has called on the government to stop attacking his rebels and come to the peace-negotiating table. His call came after the government, backed by the United Nations, attacked rebel positions with helicopter gunships in two parts of North Kivu province. The rebels are also asking the international community to put pressure on the Kinshasa government to come to the peace table.
Meanwhile the rebels have denied being behind the violence that has forced scores of civilians to flee their villages into neighboring countries. From the North Kivu province, rebel spokesman Rene Abande tells reporter Peter Clottey that the rebels want peace, not war with the government.
“We are calling for a ceasefire because we know that there are no military solutions of the problem of east Congo. We know the matters are political, and for us we have only the table to resolve all political problems in east Congo, that is very important,” Abande noted.
He said the reason why the rebel group led by General Nkunda took up arms was to protect ordinary citizens who were being attacked by what he described as negative forces.
“You know all Interahamwe (rebels who fled after committing acts of genocide in Rwanda in 1994) or SPLF (Sani Peoples Liberation Front) or people from Congo who did genocide there, they came in our region. Since more than 10 years they are continuing to massacre people, to rape people, we have to protect people. We took guns only for protecting people and to make our voice understood,” he said.
Abande denied the rebels have been attacking villages. But he added that the UN is backing the Kinshasa government in the ongoing arms conflict because it is part of the UN mission to do so.
“It’s not true. The problem is that it’s normal for the United Nations to help the government. It’s their mission. But the truth is it’s the government, which began to attack our troops that we gave to the government after the peace talks, which took place in Kigali in January at the beginning of this year. We had talks and we decided to give to them (government) more than six thousand soldiers, and they began to attack those soldiers we gave to the government,” Abande said.
He blamed the government for using propaganda against the rebels after Kinshasa launched an air strike on villages.
“That is not true. It’s the government, which is attacking the people with helicopters. And they killed many people because they attacked some people centers and some villages, but the government is making allegations against us. It’s a manipulation of the media. It’s a political fight. But the reality is that we are protecting people, that is the truth, but none is being told to the media, and that is the problem,” he pointed out.
Abande said international pressure should be brought to bear on the Kinshasa government if it fails to come to the negotiating table.
“We would like to see the government to accept to come to the negotiations for peace because that is very important. But if the government does not accept to come to the table, we are asking the international community to try to make pressure to the government so that the problems can be solved,” Abande said.