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Former Congo Rebels Threaten to Re-Start Insurgency Over Pay Dispute

Former Combatants in the Democratic Republic of Congo are threatening to take up arms after accusing Kinshasa of failing to pay them for the last two months. In a meeting with the deputy governor of the restive North Kivu province, the former combatants accused the government of abdicating its responsibility as stipulated in the recently signed agreement by refusing to pay them. Under the agreement, Kinshasa is expected to integrate the former rebels into the national army as well as grant them amnesty from prosecution. Didier Bitaki is a leading member of the Mai Mai armed group.

He told VOA that the former combatants are upset about Kinshasa's refusal to keep its side of the agreement.

"The former rebel commanders are not happy because there are some points, the regulation of the problem of their ranks and the reintegration has not taken place yet… so because of that they are not happy," Bitaki said.

He said representatives of other armed groups are holding peace talks on how to tackle the grievances of former armed combatants.

"We are still discussing with the government to know what the government has to do in accordance with the agreement we signed in Goma," he said.

Bitaki said the former rebels have a course to complain about the treatment meted to them by the government.

"You know the government cannot be able to satisfy all of the demands made by the armed groups. What I can say that really there is no satisfaction... but we cannot get the solution immediately for their (commanders of former rebels) reintegration. And that is the reason why we are in Kinshasa now," Bitaki said.

He said representatives of some armed groups will continue their discussions with Kinshasa today after a short break.

"So, now we have started the discussion today and I think tomorrow we will have the same point with the agenda with our meeting with the authority. Especially, the cooperation and the international relations so that we can find a solution to what they (former rebels) are claiming," he said.

Bitaki said it is up to Kinshasa to come up with solutions to meet the demands of the rebels.

"That question is sometimes complicated because we have no decision to what the government can do. There is a government and we have already given our concerns to the government and that the government has the responsibility to treat them (former rebels) well," Bitaki said.

He said there are indications the former armed combatants could take up arms again and begin an insurgency.

"If the government does not treat them respectfully that would help a lot to the government then I think they are free to take any decision what they can be able to prove that really they have a reason to do it," he said.

Bitaki urged the former combatants not to lose hope in the ongoing negotiations between the government and their representatives which would continue Tuesday in the capital, Kinshasa.

"I would like to prefer everybody to keep the process of peace, which is going on now as a main way that has helped everybody to stay safer. But these people need to start a war I think the government cannot accept that the former armed groups to start a war again because of the treatment," Bitaki said.

He said failure of Kinshasa to address the concerns of the former combatants could lead to another round of armed conflicts in the restive North Kivu province.

"If the government doesn't do it I cannot force them, they (rebels) will return to the bush and what will happen I don't know I cannot give any view about what can be as a consequence of what the armed groups if they withdraw their combatants from the army," he said.

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.