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Congo Rebels Brace for More Fighting Following Deadline Extension

VOA News - October 16, 2007

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Forces loyal to dissident Congolese General Laurent Nkunda will not integrate in Congo 's national army, despite the extension of an October 15 deadline, a rebel spokesman said Tuesday. Noel King has more in this report from Kigali.
Nkunda's army is bracing for renewed fighting despite a period of relative calm early Tuesday, spokesman Rene Abanzi told VOA.

"The government is continuing to transport troops. We know in a few hours they are going to begin again," he said.  "We are preparing to be attacked in a few hours." 

On Tuesday, Congolese President Joseph Kabila extended an October 15 deadline for Nkunda to integrate his forces into Congo 's national army.

Abanzi said integration, also known as brassage, will not be possible until Kabila agrees to formal talks with the rebels.

Kabila has said he is not interested in continuing negotiations with Nkunda's National Congress for the People's Defense.  Abanzi said the stalemate is the fault of Congo 's administration.

"We said to them that we were ready to speak about brassage," he added.  "But they refused to talk with us about brassage. It's a problem. We need a ceasefire but the President refused."

Fierce fighting between Nkunda's forces and the army began in December 2006, displacing tens of thousands of people.  Renewed fighting erupted in late August.

Nkunda, an ethnic Tutsi, split from Congo 's armed forces in 2004. He claims not enough has been done to rid eastern Congo of Hutu militias known as the FDLR.

The FDLR have links to the perpetrators of neighboring Rwanda 's 1994 genocide, in which 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed.
Routed by the Tutsi-dominated Rwandan Patriotic Front, Hutu militias poured into eastern Congo.  Congo's administration, strengthened by a 2006 election, has called on the numerous armed groups operating in eastern Congo to integrate into the national army.

Most militia groups have refused calls to integrate their forces, and eastern Congo remains wracked by conflict.

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