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President orders disarmament of all foreign rebels

KINSHASA, 29 Jun 2005 (IRIN) - President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo told diplomats on Tuesday that he had ordered his army to begin disarming, immediately, thousands of foreign rebels in the east of his country.

"All armed foreign groups operating in DRC, particularly in the east should be disarmed immediately," he told the ambassadors in Kinshasa, the nation's capital, at a meeting to evaluate the performance of his two-year transitional government.

The secretary-general of the Congolese government in charge of administrative affairs, Ntumba Luaba, said, "The Congolese army was given these instructions and would operate with the logistic support of the UN Mission in Congo."

Ntumba declined to say when the troops would be deployed.

The presence of Rwandan armed groups in eastern Congo has been a source of tension between Kigali and Kinshasa. Some of the senior rebel commanders of these groups are said to have directed the killing of some 937,000 Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

The African Union, the continent's foremost political and security body, says there are 8,000 to 10,000 of these rebels in eastern Congo. Rwanda puts the figure at 15,000. They are composed of the ex-FAR and Interhamwe, now operating under the name of the Forces democratique de liberation du Rwanda.

The AU, reporting on a consultative meeting held 15-18 March on the disarmament and neutralisation of these groups said they were organised in a classical military structure but often without corresponding strength. They have two divisions: one each in North and South Kivu provinces.

The AU said the groups constituted "the most serious threat in view of their number and their strength".

It said other armed groups in eastern Congo were Burundi's Front national de liberation Forces (FNL) headed by Agathon Rwasa, in the region of Uvira; the Allied Democratic Forces/National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF/NALU) in the Beni/Butembo region; and the People's Redemption Army whose precise locations are yet to be verified.

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