Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila's government is dismissing demands by renegade army General Laurent Nkunda for direct negotiations to end the escalating violence in restive North Kivu province. Laurent Nkunda who is the leader of the National Congress for the Defense of People (CNDP) also is demanding direct talks to address his objection to the government's nine billion dollar deal that gives China access to vast mineral riches in exchange for a railway and a highway. This comes after Nkunda threatened Thursday to send his fighters into Goma, North Kivu's provincial capital, unless U.N. peacekeepers guaranteed a ceasefire and security there after overnight clashes with the national army.
Jack Kahora is the VOA correspondent in the DRC. He tells reporter Peter Clottey from Goma that the displaced civilians are fleeing in droves to safety.
"In fact this claim of Laurent Nkunda has been announced for months now since even the clashes started. Nkunda says that he needs to negotiations now with the government and himself and not with all those armed groups of Mai Mai and other militias, which are operating in the eastern DRC. But the government dismissed the claim of Nkunda saying that the only frame, which would be conducive for the talks, is the peace process, which is the ARMANI program, which was signed in Goma in January 2008," Kahora noted.
He said the contention between the government and the rebels has to do with the disagreement over the modalities of the recently signed ceasefire that the rebels pulled out from.
"Nkunda decided to withdraw from the ARMANI program because he said that it is not a program, which was not successful as expected," he said.
Kahora said Congolese are worried the escalating violence is not fully being addressed by President Joseph Kabila's government.
"This is the question that everybody is asking because people are really tired of the violence. Imagine millions of people who are in the streets now who have no shelter they have no food they have no water and they have no assistance whatsoever. Meanwhile, politicians are discussing meetings and how to share power, whilst people are just suffering. So people here would like the two parties to meet and talk about solving the problem instead of just going on and letting people going on and suffer for nothing," Kahora pointed out.
He said that the government has not adequately provided for the Internally Displaced People (IDPs) adversely affected by he rebel insurgency.
"Nothing has been done since the IDPs began moving. The clashes, which happened near the town of Goma and still ongoing, but up till now nothing has been provided for them and they are just out of assistance and they are just moving around with no help at all?they even spent the night in the rain," he said.
Kahora said some of the residents who have been affected by the rebel insurgency have expressed their frustration with the government and are fretting with the idea of joining the rebels.
"Some of them have decided to crossover to where the rebels are because they have found out that there is nobody who care about their plight and some of them prefer to go to the side of the rebels saying that it is better to die of violence rather than hunger," Kahora noted.
He said some government officials have been reassuring the IDPS with radio addresses, but no concrete plans are in place to help the affected.
"Yes we heard the governor of the province speaking on the local radio and explaining to the people about what is happening and the disaster the war is bringing. But there has been no solutions to the current IDP problems," he said.
Meanwhile, General Nkunda claims he had called the ceasefire in hopes of stopping the chaos in Goma. He said he would keep his fighters at a distance, that they had retreated seven miles (12 kilometers) from Goma, and he wants to maintain the cease-fire to allow humanitarian help to get through and the refugees to go home.