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East Congo Rebels Withdraw from Peace Accord

A rebel leader in Eastern Congo says he is withdrawing from January's peace agreement and has issued a call for Congolese to rise up and liberate the country. VOA's Scott Bobb reports from our West Africa Bureau in Dakar.

Rebel leader General Laurent Nkunda issued a letter Friday, saying he was withdrawing from a January peace agreement with the Congolese government.

In an interview on British and French radio Nkunda said he was expanding his struggle to free the entire nation.

He says he is appealing to all Congolese to rise up and liberate themselves because the current government is allowing the occupation of the country by foreign forces.

However, he indicated that he might refrain from returning to war, saying liberation did not necessarily have to come through armed conflict.

Nkunda issued a signed letter, a copy of which was obtained by VOA, accusing the Congolese government of negotiating in bad faith. He also accused the Congolese army of collaborating with Rwandan militias that have been terrorizing people in parts of eastern Congo.

And Nkunda accused the UN mission in Congo of turning a blind eye to the violence and of abandoning its neutrality.

The Congolese government dismissed the charges.

The announcement follows renewed clashes between the Congolese armed forces and Nkunda's National Congress for the Defense of the People.

Nkunda's group says it is defending ethnic-Tutsi Congolese, called Banyamulenge, who immigrated from Rwanda decades ago. It says they are being targeted by remnants of Hutu militias from Rwanda that fled into eastern Congo following the Rwandan genocide 14 years ago.

More then 80 humanitarian agencies working in the Congo last week warned that a month of violence in the region had displaced more than 100,000 people and caused a drastic deterioration of the humanitarian situation there.

An estimated three million Congolese died during two civil wars in the mid-1990s. A peace agreement several years ago ended most of the violence and brought national elections two years ago. But it failed to end hostilities in parts of eastern Congo.