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Renegade Colonel Surrenders in Eastern Congo After Clashes


South Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo

C ongolese troops clashed with supporters a renegade colonel in Congo's eastern city of Bukavu on Sunday before he surrendered and turned himself in to U.N. peacekeepers.

Democratic Republic of Congo army spokesman for South Kivu region, Dieudonne Kasereka, said by telephone that clashes had started after police came to disarm Colonel Abbas Kayonga, who was sacked from his post on Thursday.

However, Kayonga, a former rebel from a group that had been disarmed and integrated into the Congolese military, gave himself up at the local base for the U.N. mission to Congo.

"He has just surrendered with 17 people at the base of the mission," Kasereka said, adding that there had been some deaths and arrests but he did not yet have the figures.

Kasereka estimated the initial size of Kayonga's force at about 30. Some had been arrested, some may have been killed and others had fled, he said.

Security has been deteriorating across Congo since the end of last year, when President Joseph Kabila refused to step down despite his mandate expiring.

Surging militia violence in the east, which has for decades been a tinderbox of ethnic rivalries fuelled by the region's mineral wealth, and in the formerly peaceful central Kasai region, have raised fears the country could slip back to the multi-faceted civil wars of the turn of the century.

Those wars killed hundreds of thousands directly in violence while millions of others are thought to have died from of hunger and disease.

The national electoral commission was expected to announce a date for the election to replace Kabila later on Sunday. Last month, it said the election cannot take place until April 2019, raising fears of an escalation in militia violence and civil disturbances.

U.S. envoy Nikki Haley, after meeting with Kabila last month, said the vote must happen in 2018 or it will lose international support.

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