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DRC Military Chief Orders Arrest of 3 Former Rebel Officers

The Democratic Republic of Congo's military chief has ordered the arrest of three former rebel officers for refusing to take up their positions in the newly unified armed forces. The three officers belong to the largest ex-rebel movement, which signed a peace agreement in July, ending more than four years of civil war.

The newly appointed chief of the Congolese armed forces, Leutenant General Liwanga Mata Nyamunyobo, announced that the three offending officers are to be arrested and tried by a military court for refusing to attend the swearing-in ceremony for the newly unified armed forces last week.

The three officers, Brigadier General Laurent Nkunda and Colonels Elie Gichondo and Eric Ruhorimbere all belong to the largest former-rebel movement, RCD-Goma, backed by Rwanda. They were named in late August as part of a new military set up comprising staff from different rebel movements and the loyalists of President Joseph Kabila.

All three men are said to be in the eastern town of Goma, on the Rwandan border, which is the headquarters of their group. None of them has yet been arrested, and RCD-Goma has refused to answer any questions on whether they will be handed over.

The dispute is clouding a key part of the peace agreement, the integration of the armed forces under the transitional government that is supposed to shepherd the country to democratic elections in two years.

It is not clear why the three men refused to take up their places. But many military analysts point out that General Nkunda has been a close ally of General Bora Uzima, whose name had been put forward by RCD-Goma as a candidate for the new military command, but who was rejected by President Kabila. General Uzima was implicated in the assassination of the president's father and predecessor, Laurent Kabila.

RCD-Goma and government loyalists have had several disputes concerning the army in recent months, particularly regarding the distribution of top posts and military regions.

This latest dispute could delay the formation of a functioning national army in Congo, where the reconciliation government is eager to regain control of all its territory and begin the rebuilding of the democratic process.