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Ituri militia leader arrested

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GOMA, 12 Apr 2005 (IRIN) - In line with new efforts by the UN mission and the government in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to dismantle militias in the troubled northeastern district of Ituri, local authorities announced on Monday the arrest of Kahwa Panga Mandro.

Congolese judicial authorities, backed by UN peacekeepers, arrested Kahwa, the leader of a coalition of militias known as the Parti pour l'unité et sauvegarde d'intégrité du Congo (PUSIC), on Saturday in Bunia, the main town in the district.

"Kahwa has been arrested because he is accused of attempting to sabotage the process of disarming the militias which the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC [known as MONUC] begun several weeks ago," Petronille Vaweka, the Ituri district commissioner, said.

Kahwa, 30, is chief of the Bahema Banywagi region north of the Bunia. He formed PUSIC in 2003.

He is accused of murder, arson and misuse of public funds.

Kahwa's arrest comes a few weeks after authorities arrested other Ituri militia leaders, including Thomas Lubanga and Floribert Njdabu Ngabu. The government has reportedly issued a further six warrants of arrest.

"We are starting our campaign against impunity in all the parts of Ituri," Théo Baruti Ikumayete, the governor of Orientale Province, told IRIN on Monday.

He was on an official visit to Ituri, a district in the province.

Since militiamen killed nine UN peacekeepers in Ituri in February, the Congolese army and MONUC have stepped up efforts to disarm the armed groups accused of violating the human rights of the local population.

At least 50,000 civilians have been killed and hundreds of thousands others displaced in the six years of war in Ituri, in which militia groups have sought control of the mineral-rich district.


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