DRC's 'Ntaganda won't be caught easily'

2012-05-04 10:04
Goma - The Congolese army on Thursday said it had advanced towards the hold out of ex-rebel leader Jean Bosco Ntaganda who has been blamed for fomenting violence in the country's restive east.

"Our troops are heading towards Mushaki from Karuba, and it is there that fighting is currently taking place," an unnamed colonel told AFP referring to towns in the Mwesa region the government says is under Ntaganda's authority.

Ntaganda had told AFP on Tuesday that he was at his farm near Mushaki, in Nord-Kivu province, and has denied all responsibility for clashes between forces loyal to him and the army in the east.

But Julien Paluku, governor of Nord-Kivu, on Wednesday said the Congolese government blamed the violence on Ntaganda and that the general would be tried for the clashes.

The Ntaganda-led National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) rebel group was integrated into the Congolese national army in 2009 following a peace deal.

But in April, a group of several hundred CNDP loyalists, including roughly a dozen senior officers, defected from the army and are now fighting national troops in the east.

The rebels said Ntaganda would not be caught easily and that the army would probably give up before reaching the general.

"They say they will arrest Bosco Ntaganda, but he's a general and can't be caught like a man who has no protection," said one of them.

Before it signed the deal, the CNDP fought government forces in the chronically-troubled Nord-Kivu and at one stage threatened to capture the regional capital Goma.

Congolese President Joseph Kabila has been under pressure to arrest Ntaganda, who was indicted on war crimes charges by the International Criminal Court in 2006 for using child soldiers.

But the government had countered that Ntaganda's co-operation was needed to stabilise the war-ravaged east.

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