DR Congo

Over 100,000 combatants awaiting integration in DRC

KINSHASA, Apr 30, 2007 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- A total of 101,509 combatants from various armed groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are awaiting to be integrated into the national army, the defense ministry announced here on Monday.

Among the combatants, there are notably 19,202 elements from armed groups in Ituri, northern and southern Kivu, according to a statement published by the ministry, indicating further that out of 82,506 elements attached to regular national army units who are yet be integrated, 25,450 are from northern and southern Kivu while 35,506 elements had been attached to transition authorities such as the protection of vice presidents Jean-Pierre Bemba and Ruberwa Manywa.

In Ituri, a stronghold of warlords, the commandants of three groups which remained active after the arrest of Thomas Lubanga, leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), have surrendered to the national army. The three leaders are Mathieu Ngudjolo of the Congolese Revolutionary Movement (MRC), Cobra Matata of the Patriotic Resistance Forces in Ituri (FRPI) and Peter Karim of the National Integration Front (FNI).

In northern Kivu, Dechu Nkonda, commandant of the largest armed group in this region surrendered to national army forces while in Southern Kivu chief Mutebusi continues to drag his feet.

With regard to the country's vice presidents, Tshikez Diemu, defense minister said in March during a press briefing that guards protecting Bemba numbered more than a battalion in Kinshasa, capital of the DRC, excluding those based in the Equator province notably in Gemena, Gbadolite and Mbandaka.

While speaking on TOP Congo, a private radio on the security situation in eastern DRC on Saturday, Diemu said that in Ituri, the situation was improving while in northern and southern Kivu where armed groups continued to drag their feet with regard to the integration process, insecurity persisted. These armed groups include one linked to Nkonda operating in both southern and northern Kivu.

According to the defense ministry, these groups are fueling insecurity for blackmail and political leverage.