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Accusations Fly as Shaky Cease-Fire Holds in Congo Rebellion

BY Admin  October 30, 2008 at 1:35 PM EST

UN peacekeepers in Congo

Renegade Gen. Laurent Nkunda told the Associated Press in an interview that he called the cease-fire after four days of violence to stop chaos in the eastern provincial capital of Goma. He said he wants to tell the government his objections to a $5 billion deal with China that would allow the country access to the Congo’s resources.

The government has said any such talks need to take place within the framework of a U.N. peace deal brokered in January, which Nkunda violated with fresh attacks.

Nkunda, whose National Congress for the Defense of the People movement claims to be defending the Tutsi minority in eastern Congo, also told the AP that U.N. peacekeepers should help refugees return home.

The conflict has driven tens of thousands of people from their homes. U.N. peacekeepers and Congo armed forces retreated from the front lines of the conflict earlier this week as the rebels approached Goma.

In overnight violence, Congolese soldiers killed at least nine people and terrorized residents of Goma, according to the U.N. radio station.

The U.N. Security Council discussed the situation in an emergency session on Thursday but took no action on the request of the country’s mission head. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is sending envoys to both the Rwandan and Congolese capitals in a bid to mediate the crisis, a spokeswoman said. Rwanda has been accused by Congo of aiding the rebels.

Nkunda’s outspoken criticism of Congo’s refusal to protect Tutsis from Rwandan Hutu militia that escaped to Congo after helping perpetrate the 1994 Rwandan genocide has increased tensions between the countries.

On Thursday, both the Rwandan government and Nkunda accused Hutu rebels from the group Rwandan Democratic Liberation Forces of fighting alongside Congolese troops against the Tutsi rebels.

Ignace Murwanashyaka, president of the group, denied any involvement.

“We do not fight alongside the Congolese army…It’s the Congolese who should defend their country, our role is limited to defending (Rwandan Hutu) refugees,” Murwanashyaka told the Agence France-Presse.

While Nkunda said he will hold up his end of the cease-fire, he has criticized the United Nations for not protecting the people of eastern Congo and has said he will do the job if the peacekeepers can’t.

“It’s not a question of power, it’s a question of right. If they cannot secure Goma I will go and do it,” Nkunda said in a telephone interview with Bloomberg News.