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21 Jan 2008 15:57
Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) government and warring rebel and militia factions will sign a deal on Tuesday to end fighting in the country’s conflict-torn east, government officials and diplomats said on Monday.
The agreement, which will include a ceasefire, was announced following more than two weeks of talks in Goma, capital of eastern North Kivu province, which brought together government officials, local leaders and rival armed factions.
“[A ceasefire] will be signed tomorrow [Tuesday] at the closing ceremony,” Vital Kamerhe, spokesperson for the peace conference and head of DRC’s lower house of Parliament, told Reuters.
More than 400 000 civilians in North Kivu have fled their homes over the past year to escape fighting between government soldiers, local Mai Mai militia and Tutsi insurgents loyal to renegade general Laurent Nkunda.
Under the deal to be signed, an immediate permanent ceasefire would be established between the government, the Mai Mai and Nkunda, diplomats and observers at the talks said.
Nkunda’s fighters would pull back from advanced positions in North Kivu, many of which they have held since the failure of a government offensive in December. This would create space for a buffer zone to be patrolled by United Nations peacekeepers.
A technical commission would then be established to oversee the disarmament of the Nkunda rebels and Mai Mai fighters and their integration into the national army, or demobilisation.
The government would, in turn, promise to create a law granting amnesty to the Mai Mai and Nkunda rebels covering “insurgency and acts of war”.
The conflict in DRC’s North Kivu, which has its roots in neighbouring Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, has raged on despite the official end of a broader 1998 to 2003 war and accompanying humanitarian catastrophe that killed an estimated four million people, mainly through hunger and disease.—Reuters
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