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Nkunda deals new blow to DRC ceasefire

A shaky peace deal in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) took another hit on Friday when renegade general Laurent Nkunda said his group would no longer participate in daily ceasefire meetings.

Nkunda said in a statement that he had taken the decision after the United Nations accused forces loyal to him this week of massacring at least 30 villagers in January.

The ex-general’s National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) ”is withdrawing, beginning today, its delegation from all meetings related to the act of engagement”, he said.

He added, however, that his group would not pull out of the ceasefire.

An ”act of engagement” was signed on January 23 committing the government, Nkunda’s forces and other rebel militias to a ceasefire in the eastern Nord- and Sud-Kivu provinces in an attempt to bring peace to the troubled region.

The UN mission had gathered evidence that members of Nkunda’s CNDP ”killed at least 30 civilians at Kalonge and in surrounding villages” between January 16 and 20, UN spokesperson Kemal Saiki said on Wednesday. He also accused government troops of murdering civilians in the region earlier in the month.

”The CNDP elements are held to have committed these apparently premeditated acts in reprisals” against civilians who had sought refuge in an area controlled by a Mai Mai tribal militia hostile to Nkunda, Saiki said.

Later, the mission, known by its French acronym Monuc, said it had ”taken note” of Nkunda’s message. However, it maintained that the findings of its investigation into the massacre ”reflect credible information received from a number of eyewitnesses and other sources”.

”The mission believes that any other independent and impartial enquiry will confirm the outcome of the investigation and Monuc is ready to cooperate with such an enquiry.”

It urged Nkunda’s movement to restore the act of engagement ”to ensure … full and rapid implementation for the benefit of the people of the Kivus”.

On Friday, Nkunda said his movement would also ”suspend all collaboration” with Monuc. It would continue to work with United States and European Union representatives involved in facilitating the ceasefire, he said.

Nkunda has also sent a letter to the UN mission in the DRC to demand an ”independent investigative mission” over the accusations against his men.

The ex-general’s announcement was the latest blow to the peace deal. Since it was signed, dozens of small-scale clashes, usually involving local Mai Mai groups and Nkunda’s forces, have been reported.

Last Friday, Nkunda’s forces killed two villagers before shooting in the direction of UN troops, who returned fire, injuring one, UN sources said. The CNDP denied having opened fire on UN soldiers. — Sapa-AFP

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