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Analyst: Violence in Eastern Congo Likely to Deteriorate

VOA News - September 14, 2007

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The tense situation in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is likely to deteriorate despite a declaration by renegade general Laurent Nkunda on Friday that he intends to integrate his forces into Congo's army, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group has said. Noel King has this report from Kigali.

Analyst David Mugnier says Nkunda's statement must be viewed warily because the rebel leader has made similar declarations about wanting to end his campaign of violence in eastern Congo and integrate into the national army. "It's not the first time he's saying that he's ready to join the army. The question is, on which conditions will he be willing to join? He had sort of an agreement with Kinshasa earlier this year, and it is because they failed to implement it, we are stuck with this situation," he said.

Recent fighting in the region between government forces and troops loyal to Nkunda has killed dozens of people and displaced tens-of-thousands. A fragile truce has been holding for a week.

The rebel general says he is fighting to protect ethnic Tutsis in the region from Hutu militias. Among his demands, Nkunda has insisted that the Congolese army hunt down those militias, which include former Rwandan rebels. Many fled from Rwandan territory after taking part in that country's genocide in 1994.

Crisis Group's Mugnier says there is no guarantee the latest cease-fire will hold. "I think the situation is likely to get worse, because you see on both sides there is a will to fight. They have been stockpiling weapons for most of the last three months. President Kabila said he's determined to force Nkunda into integrating his troops into the national army; and that he's not really open to the idea of negotiations," he said.

Ethnic tensions in eastern Congo have long destabilized the resource-rich region.

A 1999-2003 war, which began when Rwandan troops entered Congo to track down Hutu militias who participated in the genocide cost an estimated four-million lives and drew in several neighboring countries.

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