In the Democratic republic of Congo, the leader of the rebel National Congress for the People?s Defense (NCPD) said his forces would not be able to abide by President Joseph Kabila?s ultimatum of laying down their weapons today (Monday). General Laurent Nkunda said the agreed area of Mushaki where the rebels were supposed to assemble to be integrated into the national army has come under heavy government gunfire, making it impossible for them to abide by the government?s ultimatum. Nkunda said he is not opposed to Monday?s ultimatum, but that the insecurity problems in the eastern part of the country are political and can only be resolved through negotiations.

General Laurent Nkunda tells reporter Peter Clottey that his forces would continue to protect the ordinary population as well as defend their positions.

?For us, we are not against that deadline. The problem is that we are now in ceasefire, and we are asking the government to accept the ceasefire because we cannot assemble troops under fire? we proposed an assembly area in Mushaki, but now Mushaki is under bombardment of the government troops. How can we go to the assembly area?  How can we respect it when the fire continues? That?s why we are asking the government to accept the ceasefire because the problem of eastern DRC is a political problem, not a military problem,? Nkunda noted.

He said in order to resolve the impasse in the northern part of the country the government must first abide by the ceasefire agreement.

?We are saying that even if they are not ready to go for negotiations, but the start of things is to ceasefire. We asked for ceasefire three days ago, now are respecting the ceasefire, how are they attacking us? They must also go in the ceasefire then let us go through the process like we were in the process with the UN forces to come with 500 troops in Mushaki for assembly area then prepare for brassage. Now, if they continue to attack us, how are we going to go to the assembly area? That?s my question,? he asked.

Nkunda said the government has made it difficult for his forces to abide by today?s deadline.

?I?m saying this, even if we want to obey how, can we when we are under government forces fire? Mushaki is under bombardment, how can we go to the assembly are? I think the way the government would ask us is to go for ceasefire, thereafter, go to the process of integration. That?s the way,? Nkunda pointed out.

He said his forces are going to defend their positions as well as protect the civilian population.

?If they are not ready for ceasefire, we are going to defend our positions, we are going to defend the population because now the government forces are working with those Hutu rebels former Rwanda genocidaires. Now we are going to defend the population against those FDLR (Forces democratiques de liberation du Rwanda) Interahamwe from Rwandan genocide. Now our mission today, it would be on defensive, defend the population, and then continue to claim for a ceasefire would be a start for a peace process,? he said.