Armed groups in the restive North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo are threatening to withdraw from a ceasefire agreement with Kinshasa vowing to once again begin their insurgency today (Wednesday). One of the armed groups has reportedly abandoned plans to be reintegrated into the national army, accusing President Joseph Kabila's government of reneging on its promises to take care of the former combatants. Residents of the restive North Kivu province are worried that the refusal of the various armed groups to join the national army could plunge the troubled region into yet another armed conflict. Didier Bitaki is the spokesman for the Mai Mai armed group. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that members of his group are upset at what he said is the obtuse treatment meted out to them by Kinshasa.
"We are not happy because in January 2008, we signed a peace agreement after the conference in Goma. And during the peace process which was attended by all the parties involved in that conflict we all agreed that we integrate our troops into the regular army and then the government can take them on so that the process can be a success. But unfortunately, it has been more than one year since we signed the deal without doing anything," Bitaki said.
He said the group's former combatants were targeted despite signing a ceasefire agreement with Kinshasa.
"When the joint operation began with Rwandan forces, they started attacking our people and that affected the integration process. So, while the integration was going on our group was forgotten by the government and for us we thought the government took a decision which did not benefit us, but it hurt as a great deal. So, we decided to take our fate into our own hands because the government is not doing enough to ensure that everybody that signed the deal is take care off. So, we thought that we are not sure things are going well on our side," he said.
Bitaki said Kinshasa has refused to adhere to the demands of the ceasefire agreement despite constant reminders from the rebel group.
"We have already expressed our concerns to all who would listen to us even in different meetings. We had meetings March 23 and during that time I even advised General Mayara and the coordinator of the ARMANI program Mr. Malu Malu and the international community representative, but they didn't do anything about our concerns. And that is the reason why we don't have a choice but to take the action that we are taking right now," Bitaki noted.
He said one of the options is to re-arm and restart the insurgency all over again.
"So, we think the best choice would be to retraining our troops and give them the means to take their responsibility. So we are very angry and you can see the reason why because the government failed to keep its part of the agreement we signed over a year ago. Unfortunately, it is the ordinary people who would be hurt but it would be the fault of the government. We are very angry," he said.
Bitaki reiterated that the rebels' next line of action is to take up arms.
"What we are going to do is that we have troops and the troops have guns so they are not going to stay anymore in a place chosen by the government so that they would be integrated into the army from there. Unfortunately, the government has forgotten about them and that is why they are suffering. We have more than three thousand troops with one thousand six hundred weapons and that is a warning to the government otherwise it would be a problem for the population… if the government attacks us we will defend ourselves," Bitaki pointed out.