Renegade General Laurent Nkunda has continued building his army with desertions from the re-integrated Congolese armed forces, according to reports which were denied in form but not in substance by the UN Mission in Congo (MONUC) on Thursday.
Nkunda, who commanded a brief uprising in the Summer of year 2004 by loyal troops, has been skimming from the cream of the Congolese army, which has been making room in its barracks for ex-rebels from a variety of sectors in recent months. Nkunda is a former leader of the Rally for Congolese Democracy, a Rwandan- and Ugandan-backed force that initially supported the late Congo President Laurent Kabila, then turned against him.
MONUC disputed the claim that desertions are widespread, saying only that "some" soldiers deserted their posts in North and South Kivu, the Tutsi heartland where Nkunda draws his most support.
But MONUC is still sending diplomats and officers to "encourage the deserting soldiers' return to base," according to a release from MONUC headquarters in Beni.
MONUC also revealed a letter from Nkunda recently received in Goma. In this letter, Nkunda (who often writes to reporters and his enemies, to justify himself or to laugh at them) writes that he will only fight in the cause of "self-defense." This encourages the leaders of MONUC, who are similarly "encouraged" that all parties in the fighting in Congo are democratic as they include the word "democracy" in their very names.
The Congolese commander of 8th Military Region, which is in North Kivu, earlier said that 350 troops had deserted on Wednesday. To MONUC, this number is "less than a hundred." But the desertions, organized it would seem, still took place.
Warrants have been issued in the names of Nkunda and his chief-of-staff, Jules Mutebusi, for treason and leading illegal armies by the Kinshasa government. The Congolese government states that all foreign troops except for MONUC must leave Congo by September 30 or there will be "consequences." But Kinshasa cannot rely on its local troops, and drawing troops from other parts of the country itself would have "consequences," as Rwanda and Uganda and other parties to this most serious war will possibly intervene again. --GS
sobaka / sobaka news wire