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Kinshasa, Kigali Agree to Seek Alternative Country to Prosecute Rebel Leader

The Democratic Republic of Congo and neighboring Rwanda are considering a neutral country to try former renegade army general Laurent Nkunda for his rebel insurgency in Congo. This comes after Kigali refused to extradite the former rebel leader for prosecution, saying Rwandan law prevents it from handing him over to Congo while Kinshasa still favors the death penalty. The Democratic Republic of Congo wants Nkunda extradited for crimes committed during a brutal five-year rebellion in restive North Kivu province, during which he captured vast amounts of territory and threatened the regional capital Goma.

Journalist Jack Kahora, who covers the DRC for the Voice of America told VOA that Kinshasa seems displeased with the neutral country agreement worked out with Kigali.

"The minister of justice of DRC was in Kigali to meet his counterpart in Rwanda in a discussion around the extradition of Nkunda to the DRC. During the discussions, Rwanda said that it would be difficult for the country to send Nkunda to DRC because he can be sentenced to death," Kahora said.

He said Kigali proposed a third country which does not favor the death penalty to handle the former rebel leader's trial.

"Rwandan authorities wish Nkunda could be extradited to a neutral country rather than DRC," he said.

Kahora said both Kigali and Kinshasa are yet to select a country to handle the former rebel leader's trial and "there are some rebels in Kinshasa holding discussions…with the government."

He said Nkunda's former rebel movement is currently in peace talks with the government, but the discussions have so far reached a stalemate.

"The discussions seem not to advance because they (government) want to see first the outcome of Nkunda before they discuss with the new rebels of the CNDP (The National Congress for People's Defense)," he said.

Kahora said the CNDP accuses the Kinshasa government of failing to live up to terms of a previously signed agreement.

"In fact, the agreements which are clear up to now, you know, there are some issues which are not known by the public up to now. And that is why most of the other groups are complaining like the civil society… so even the local people would want to know exactly the content of the agreement which was signed," Kahora said.

He said there seems to be confusion among the former combatants who are not sure what their role would be in the recently signed agreement with the government.

"What is true is that the rebels of CNDP are not happy because up to now, they have been divided. But they don't know what responsibility has been given to them. It is true that the military officers have already have been integrated in the national army with their ranks. But the political leaders would also like to be integrated into political positions," he said.

Kahora said the government faces a stiff challenge in bringing in the political wing of the former CNDP rebels.

"In Kinshasa, power was shared among the winners of the election during the 2006 elections, and that is how the power was shared. Now the question is to know how the CNDP, which didn't win the elections, can be also positioned at the national level. These are the discussions which are taking place in Kinshasa up to now," Kahora said.

He said the former combatants have been taking their frustration about the current stalemate with the government one step further by carrying out actions detrimental to public interests.

"On the ground, the soldiers who belong to the CNDP have blocked trucks carrying food to Goma. About 60 trucks are blocked and cannot reach Goma up to now, and have now created a kind of shortage of food in the area up to now," he said.