In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the National Congress for the People’s Defense rebel group has categorically denied that its leader, General Laurent Nkunda is dead. The rebels say the speculation is a calculated attempt by President Joseph Kabila’s government to undermine the group’s unity of purpose, which they say is to protect the Tutsi minority in the country. They also criticized the United Nations military force (MONUC) of backing government forces against the rebels.
Meanwhile, the head of Congo’s military has said he has given up all hopes of a peaceful solution to the conflict in eastern Congo. But the rebels said they are ever ready to defend themselves from any aggression from any quarter.
Rene Abande is the spokesman for the rebels. From North Kivu province, he tells reporter Peter Clottey that General Nkunda is alive and well.
“It’s a mistake. He is alive and strong… he was working on other things so he did not have time to be answering to journalists’ calls. It does not mean someone is dead because he is decided to work on other things. So until now, he is looking at the long-term thinking about the future of the movement,” Abande noted.
He described the government’s threat to forcibly disarm the rebel group as a grave blunder.
“For us it’s a big mistake. The government can’t decide that the peaceful way of solving problems is ending. No. It’s a mistake and we held a press conference in which we said that, that was a mistake to the nation. There should still be a peaceful way to solve the conflict problem between men,” he said.
Abande said the rebel group is frustrated with the U.N. forces in the country.
“We are not happy because MONUC is helping government in choosing a fighting way. That is the problem; it’s a contradiction of principles of United Nations because the mission of the United Nations is to bring peace, to help people to seek peace together. But now General Babakar is trying to explain that the peaceful ways are ended. So from now we have to solve problems between Congolese fighting, that is unacceptable and that is the position of our movement,” Abande said.
He said the rebels are ready to fend off any attacks that could possibly be directed at them.
“We are going to defend ourselves; and we are going to continue to explain to the international communities that we are waiting for a peaceful way of solving problems,” he said.
Abande blamed the government for not doing enough for the Tutsi minority in the country.
“The government did nothing about the Interahamwe problem. The government did noting about the refugees, the government did not do anything when Tutsis were being killed all over the country. Even so if the government refuses to do so why should we do? We have to explain to the international community so they can make pressure on this government to solve this problem,” Abande said.