News24

Arms depot found on DRC mutineer's farm

2012-05-10 08:59

Goma - A 25-ton arms cache has been found on the farm of the leader of a band of Congolese army mutineers, the wanted war criminal Bosco Ntaganda, a provincial governor's office said on Wednesday.

Hundreds of army deserters led by the ex-general have clashed in recent days with loyalist soldiers in the eastern DRC town of Kimbumba in a conflict-torn region near the Rwandan border.

Ntaganda, nicknamed the "Terminator", is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes including recruiting child soldiers when he was part of a militia in the early part of the last decade.

"More than 25 tons of weapons were recovered from the farm of Bosco Ntaganda in Masisi," part of Nord-Kivu province where clashes took place between April 29 and May 4, said province spokesperson Celestin Sibomana by phone.

"There are heavy weapons: mortars, recoilless rifles and small arms. Some weapons were presented to the governor [Julien Paluku] while he was on tour in this part of Masisi," he said.

The Kivu provinces have been unstable for most of the past 20 years, with a myriad of armed groups preying on the civilian population, and regular massive displacements of tens of thousands of people.

The mutineers are former members of rebel group the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) who had been integrated into the army of the vast central African country under a 2009 peace deal.

Inhumane treatment

The rebel soldiers complained of inhumane treatment in the regular army.

Sibomana, the spokesperson, said Ntaganda was now "in the Virunga National Park, near Kibumba and near the border with Rwanda". As Rwanda has already closed its border, the rebellious officers...were unable to return to Rwanda."

The park, on the borders with Rwanda and Uganda, is known for its mountain gorillas, apes that are highly endangered and targeted by poachers.

The armed forces, the FARDC, last Saturday issued a five-day ultimatum to the mutineers to return to their ranks.

"If they change sides, they will find the doors open to the FARDC. But otherwise, the FARDC will take responsibility to hunt down the mutineers," said the press secretary.