GOMA - Congolese rebel leader Gen. Laurent Nkunda has confirmed that his movement had sent a delegation to the ongoing national peace conference being held at the eastern Congolese town of Goma.
Speaking to The New Times on phone yesterday, Gen. Nkunda said he hoped the meeting would address once and for all the binding issue of Rwandan armed militia who are the main obstacle to peace in the region.
“The meeting should come up with a serious agenda of getting rid of the Rwandan rebels from our soil,’ said the rebel leader. “It is not acceptable having people with freely roaming the region with 8,000 uncontrolled guns.”
The armed groups, who are a mixture of former Rwandan armed forces (Ex- FAR) and Interahamwe militia responsible for the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda, fled to the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) soon after their defeat.
The talks bring together members of the government, political parties, military, judiciary, civil society, traditional leaders and representatives of each ethnic group in the Kivu. Foreign observers have also been invited.
Laurent Nkunda was confident that civilian participants from areas under his control would give a true picture of the peace they were enjoying.
“The areas under our control are the safest in the whole of Kivu. People even move about at night with no fear. The same can not be said for the government side,” said the General.
The meeting was hastily called by the Congolese government when it failed to dislodge Nkunda’s men after it launched an ill-fated offensive in December.
The Kivu peace conference did not have to wait long before it hit a snag, the first of what observers say more to come. First it was President Joseph Kabila, the convener of the conference, who decided to pull out at the last moment and send an emissary instead.
The very vocal civil societies in the Kivu then decided to boycott the talks claiming that they had been given insignificant roles in the process. They demanded 300 seats in the session.
An official of Nkunda’s CNDP said his group had sent about 10 people to the talks which are fully funded by the Congolese government.