Congolese rebel leader threatens war if talks not held

November 30th, 2008 - 5:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Nairobi/Goma (Congo), Nov 30 (DPA) Congolese rebel leader Laurent Nkunda has threatened all-out war if the government does not hold talks with him, reports said Sunday.Speaking after meeting UN peace envoy and former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo in eastern Congo, Nkunda said the government had no choice but to talk.

“If there is no negotiation, let us say then there is war,” the BBC reported Nkunda as saying late Saturday. “I know that (the government) has no capacity to fight, so they have only one choice - negotiations.”

Nkunda said that Obasanjo should mediate the talks, which he wants to take place in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya.

Obasanjo said he believed the latest meeting with Nkunda was a step toward peace.

Fighting between Nkunda’s National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) and government forces exploded into full-scale conflict in October when the rebels came on the verge of taking Goma, the capital of the eastern North Kivu province.

Well over 250,000 civilians have been displaced since August as a result of the clashes, aid agencies say.

Nkunda called a ceasefire and pulled his troops back from the front lines in mid-November after meeting Olusegun Obasanjo.

Despite the ceasefire, clashes have continued with government forces and the pro-government Mai Mai militia.

Nkunda’s men on Thursday seized the border town of Ishasha, about 120 km from Goma, forcing over 15,000 refugees to flee to Uganda.

Civilians caught between the warring forces have suffered atrocities at the hands of all parties, according to the UN. There have been repeated reports of rape, looting and murder by the CNDP and government forces.

The UN has agreed to send another 3,000 troops to bolster the 17,000-strong peacekeeping mission in Congo, known as MONUC. The peacekeepers are hopelessly overstretched by the conflict.

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