DR Congo

DRC: Ituri ceasefire to be signed on 10 March, says UPC's Lubanga

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KINSHASA, 28 February (IRIN) - The signing of a ceasefire for the Ituri District of northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) will take place on 10 March, Thomas Lubanga, leader of the Bunia-based Union des patriotes congolais (UPC) rebel movement, told IRIN on Friday.
He was accused by the UN Mission in the DRC, known as MONUC, of blocking the signing of the ceasefire that was to have taken place on 19 February. Lubanga, in turn, accused MONUC of favouring the DRC and Ugandan governments, which, he alleged, supported the creation of a rival militia to the UPC, namely the Front pour l'integration et la pacification de l'Ituri.

"We have now given our accord for the holding of a preparatory committee meeting on 3 March for the Ituri Pacification Commission, and we agreed to the signing of a ceasefire on 10 March here in Bunia," he said. Lubanga added that he had just discussed these matters with MONUC and Brig Kale Kaihura, the chief political commissar of the Uganda People's Defence Force.

The UN Secretary-General's Special Representative to the DRC, Amos Namanga Ngongi, had earlier threatened to ask the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Lubanga for his failure to cooperate.

Tensions between MONUC and the UPC increased further on Monday, when an unidentified unit fired at a helicopter carrying the MONUC force commander, Gen Mountaga Diallo, 15 minutes after taking off from Bunia bound for Beni. Diallo had just concluded discussions with Lubanga. Although a bullet penetrated the cockpit, no-one was wounded, and the flight continued without further incident, landing safely in Beni 30 minutes later.

"We deplore this act of barbarism and we suspect that the incident occurred on territory beyond our control," Lubanga said. He added that several other militias supported by Kinshasa and Kampala operated in the region. "We have no reason to shoot at this helicopter, because we are working together with MONUC in the peace process for Ituri," Lubanga told IRIN.

MONUC, which opened an inquiry into the shooting, has not yet identified the source of the bullet that penetrated the cockpit. MONUC has suspended flights to Bunia pending results of the investigation.

[ENDS]

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