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DRC Rebel Group Expresses Frustration with Kinshasa

An opposition armed group is accusing DRC President Joseph Kabila's government of giving preferential treatment to National Congress for People's Defense (CNDP) rebels in the implementation of Congo's recently signed peace agreement.

The Mai Mai rebel group said it is frustrated with the government and has threatened to take up arms, a move which would undermine the peace process. The Mai Mai claims the government gave lofty positions in the national army to the CNDP, relegating the Mai Mai fighters to junior ranks.

But President Kabila sidestepped the allegation, promising to look into their grievances. Didier Bitaki is a leader of the Mai Mai rebel group. He told VOA that Kinshasa has so far failed to treat them as equals to other rebel groups.

"We are very frustrated because the treatment reserved to ourselves and our former troops or combatants is not so good," Bitaki said.

He criticized the CNDP's preferentially treatment after both groups were integrated into the national army in accordance to the recently signed peace deal with Kinshasa.

"They are mistreating our combatants because they are living under the CNDP commanders now in the army," he objected.

Bitaki complained that his combatants have been left to fend for themselves.

"The government is now paying attention to the CNDP reintegration instead of collecting all things so that we find solutions to all the problems. So we are not happy (about) the way we are treated," Bitaki said.

He said ongoing negotiations with the government have so far failed to address their concerns.

"Since May we have been in Kinshasa for the same purpose we came here to discuss about how we can make implementation of the Goma agreement which we signed between us and the government. We are still waiting for the response from the other side," he said.

Bitaki said the rebels are expressing anger and would take up arms if Kinshasa refuses to address their concerns,

"We are very disappointed and if such things continue, I don't know if we are going to maintain peace, which is very bad on the ground," Bitaki said.

He said although President Kabila promised to address their concerns, nothing has so far been done.

"We've just been discussing with the president today and we told him our concerns, but the president gave a good response and we were a little satisfied with what he said. But the problem is that those who are sent to execute the agreement we don't have faith in them," he said.

Bitaki said that with growing Mai Mai discontent about their treatment, the rebels could be forced to take up arms.

"Our former combatants are saying they are being mistreated and they are even thinking of returning to the bush," Bitaki said.

He urged Kinshasa to take action to prevent another round of insurgency in North Kivu province and surrounding areas by not favoring one group at the other's expense.

"The government should bring response to the problem of the combatants and the problem of the political leaders instead of giving the responsibility to people who don't need peace," he said.