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DRC Rebel Leader Nkunda Says Ready to Join Army

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VOA News - September 14, 2007

Clottey Interview with General Laurent Nkunda audio clip
Listen to Clottey Interview with General Laurent Nkunda audio clip

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the leader of the rebel National Congress for the People's Defense, General Laurent Nkunda said his forces are ready to join the national army after their demands are met. This follows threats by DRC President Joseph Kabila for renegade soldiers in eastern Congo to rejoin the national army or face forcible disarmament. Meanwhile, the rebels say they are waiting to hear today (Friday) from their contact who was supposed to have met with President Kabila to find out whether the Kinshasa government would agree to begin peace negotiations. From the North Kivu province, General Laurent Nkunda tells reporter Peter Clottey that President Kabila's threat is no news.

"You know that in the agreement of Kigali, we agreed for brassage (integration), but after a process of message of reconciliation, of operation against the negative forces. And I think it was previously known that after that process we are going to brassage. So, what the president says is not a new thing for us," Nkunda noted.

He said his rebel force is ever ready to join the DRC national army as demanded by President Kabila.

"We are ready to join the army, but we have some reservation, and we want to be understood before e go to join the national army," he said.

Nkunda enumerated a number of demands he said the Kinshasa government must meet before the rebels could join the national army.

"We want to have talks with the government. There are many issues to address; like problems with security in eastern Congo, the problem of refugees who are in neighboring countries to be back in Congo, the problem of reconciliation. Then we join, are ready to work, we are soldiers," Nkunda pointed out.

He said he wants the process of peace negotiations with the government to be expedited.

"You know the best thing is to make it very quicker because days are going on and we want to join. We want to be in the national army. So the quicker would be the best," he said.

Nkunda said although Rwanda's President Paul Kagame is ready to help facilitate peace negotiations between the Kinshasa government and the rebels, the rebels need to hear word from President Kabila.

"I think he (Presidentl Kagame) says that he is ready to accept our demands and he is ready to offer his facilitation. So I think for us there is no problem, but we are waiting for the reaction of the government of Kinshasa," Nkunda noted.

He said the rebels have appointed a contact to meet with the Kinshasa government and are waiting to hear Friday from President Kabila. 

"We appointed a contact officer, a peace ambassador, pastor Runiga, was appointed to do a contact with President Kabila. So we are waiting, I think today (Friday) he will give me response on that mission we gave him to be in contact with the president?we are waiting, we are in a ceasefire, we are waiting that we would be called to join negotiations. We are hoping this position would be taken by MONUC and the government of Kinshasa. For us we are ready, we are waiting and I think quick would be best,  " he said.


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