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Former Rebels to Hold Negotiations with Kinshasa for Implementing Agreement

The National Congress for People's Defense (CNDP) rebel group is expected to hold negotiations with Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila's government Tuesday to find ways of implementing a recently signed agreement. This comes after former combatants complained about delays and Kinshasa's failure fully to implement the agreement that would integrate them into the national army. The agreement signed in March also provides for the transformation of the CNDP rebel group into a political party and the release of former rebel group members captured by the national army.

CNDP Chairman Desire Kamanzi told VOA that the former combatants are not enthused about Kinshasa's delay.

"We came in with the aim of looking at ways of implementing the agreement which was signed on 23rd of March, and we have been waiting. There is what is called the National Committee to follow up the implementation of the agreement, so we came to discuss with the government how we should go about it," Kamanzi said.

He said the rebels are looking forward to having a meaningful discussion with Kinshasa over the full implementation of the recently signed agreement.

"Today's meeting is promising, and we haven't gone through the details. But at least we were given some documents, which shows how the committee will be working. Also, we are in touch with the international mediation we met before we came here in Kinshasa. We met in Goma," he said.

Kamanzi said residents in the restive North Kivu province are hopeful about a peace agreement despite the delay.

"I think everybody is just tired to see that things are not as were expected to be," Kamanzi said.

He said although the implementation has been slow, Tuesday's negotiations could expedite the process.

"In fact, our expectation is to speed up the process because we already have delayed with the implementation one month and a half. It is a long time, so we will like to discuss them to put up mechanism which should be set up and speed up the process," he said.

Kamanzi said there is need to look at the modalities by which the peace agreement would be fully implemented.

"In fact, we are to discuss because we had already a matrix, which shows the date, and already the time has passed. And we have to discuss and revise the matrix and implement everything so we haven't gone through the details. But we hope that at the end of our day here in Kinshasa, we should have a clear plan about that," Kamanzi said.

He said former combatants of the CNDP were not enthused about Kinshasa's holdup in implementing the peace agreement.

"They were not happy because of the delay, but when everybody heard that we are to be invited to be in Kinshasa, I think everybody is waiting and see what is going to happen," he said.

Kamanzi said Kinshasa has been unable to explain fully why its action contributed to the delay.

"There is no clear explanation that we have got at the moment. We have been asking the minister what is going on, but nothing was given as a clear explanation about it," Kamanzi said.

Nigeria's former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who doubles as UN special mediator between Kinshasa and the rebels was present during the signing of the agreement in the North Kivu capital Goma. The head of the United Nations Mission in the DRC (MONUC) Alan Doss was also present during the ceremony.

Under the agreement, Kinshasa will pass an amnesty law for former rebels. Both sides also agreed to what is described as the principle of a local police force, understood as a branch of the Congolese national police, which listens to the public and serves at their will.

The CNDP was previously led by renegade Tutsi general Laurent Nkunda and began its uprising in the Kivu hills in 2003. The militia has been accused of using sexual violence as a weapon of war, grabbing young kids from schools, and conscripting them into its ranks. In addition, in November, 2008, some of the fighters were accused of massacring more than 100 civilians in the village of Kiwanja. The militia has denied the charge, saying the dead were Mai-Mai militia fighters.

Political observers say the promised amnesty raises serious questions about suspected war criminals within the CNDP. The rebel group's new leader Bosco Ntaganda was indicted by The Hague-based International Criminal Court in August 2008 for war crimes. He has repeatedly been named by child soldiers testifying before the court in the trial of one his former allies, Thomas Lubanga Dyilo.

But Ntaganda remains free in eastern DRC. With the new peace deal, Kabila appears reluctant to hand him over to the ICC. His regime shows that the need for peace in eastern Congo is paramount to the capture of the warlord. In the past, Kabila's regime has acquiesced to ICC requests, handing over Lubanga, who had abandoned fighting to join the government, much in the same manner that Ntaganda is negotiating to do. Kinshasa also handed over Germain Katanga and Matthieu Ngudjolo Chui to the ICC. Both men are accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity.