Gen Laurent Nkunda. The government says it has the power to pardon him for leading a rebellion, but that the law did not permit it to grant amnesty for crimes against humanity
KINSHASA, 19 Jan 2007 (IRIN) - Discussions are still continuing on whether to grant amnesty to the dissident general, Laurent Nkunda, who led an anti-government rebellion in North Kivu, in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Deputy Defence Minister for Army Integration, Bernard Mena Mboyo, said on Friday.
"Negotiations are open," he said. "The amnesty question could be raised as was the case with other combatants, in the interest of peace and to avoid population displacement and hunger because of war."
He said that while the government could pardon Nkunda for leading the rebellion, the law did not permit it to grant amnesty for crimes against humanity that might have been committed by him or his troops. The transitional parliament passed a law in 2004 granting amnesty only for acts of war and politics against the state.
Mena contradicted a statement made on Wednesday by an aide to the commander of the North Kivu military region, who said the government had dropped all charges against Nkunda.
The chief of staff of the armed forces, Gen John Numbi, is leading the government negotiations aimed at securing peace in the east of the country. According to the deputy commander of the North Kivu military region, Col Delphin Kahindi, the integration of Nkunda's troops into the regular army is one of the issues being discussed, as well as Nkunda's status.
While officials say negotiations are well advanced, details remain closely guarded. Two regular army brigades and a similar component of Nkunda's troops were brought into a camp on Wednesday for integration.