Rebel chief in DR Congo demands buffer zone for surrender

08:33, May 25, 2011      

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A rebel chief hiding in the forest of Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) has demanded a buffer zone in exchange for his surrender, according to traditional leaders.

Maj. Luc Yabili, the commander of the Mai Mai rebels active around Opienge in Bafwasende territory of Orientale province, wants a buffer zone to be monitored by the UN Mission for Stabilization of Congo (MONUSCO) to guarantee his security when they come out of the forest.

Regional customary chiefs said on Monday that Yabili had given these conditions in a letter to a delegation of elders from Bafwasende territory who had gone to his Opienge stronghold to negotiate his surrender.

In the letter, the rebel chief stressed that the buffer zone should stretch from Balobe village to Opienge post office where the Congolese army (FARDC) is stationed.

He also demanded that MONUSCO escorts his entourage from Balobe to Kisangani, the headquarters of Orientale province. Other conditions include the restoration of state authority at Balobe and Opienge, the replacement of current forest rangers at the Maiko national park and the reintegration of 8,875 people living with him.

In order to show his willingness to surrender, Yabili released 127 hostages to the Bafwasende elders who had come to hold talks with him.

Despite the desire by the rebel chief to surrender, the gesture has not been well received by the commander of DR Congo's 9th military region based in Kisangani, general Jean-Claude Kifwa, to whom Luc Yabili remains an enemy to be dislodged by force.

"If there are ongoing negotiations, they are being done outside of the army. As the military commander in this region, I want to ask that these negotiations be stopped," general Kifwa said.

He asked, "How the elders could begin talks with an enemy and yet the soldiers who have been deployed in the area are not aware of the talks?"

"I want to state here that I will launch the operation. I will order my officers to continue with the operation to clear all the remaining members of the Mai Mai rebel group," he said.

Source: Xinhua
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