January 23, 2009 / 2:15 PM / in 9 years

FACTBOX: Rebel leader Nkunda is arrested

(Reuters) - Congolese Tutsi rebel leader Laurent Nkunda was arrested in Rwanda after he resisted a joint Rwandan-Congolese military operation designed to pacify eastern Congo, officials said on Friday.

Here are some details about the conflict in eastern Congo.


-- Nkunda, and his Tutsi rebel National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), were blamed for an upsurge of fighting in Congo’s North Kivu province in recent months.

He had launched his Congolese Tutsi rebellion in 2004.

-- The renewed violence worsened an already dire humanitarian crisis in North Kivu, which had 850,000 internal refugees even before the most recent fighting began in August, according to U.N. figures. By late 2008, 250,000 people had been forced to flee, many of whom have been displaced several times.

-- In August, Nkunda’s rebels suspended participation in a tenuous peace process, killing off a frequently broken ceasefire dating back to a January 2008 peace deal.

-- Nkunda’s rebels and government troops each accused the other of provoking clashes and they launched a major offensive on October 26, advancing to within 20 km (12 miles) of Goma.

-- In November, former United Nations envoy Olusegun Obasanjo held talks with Congolese President Joseph Kabila, seeking to prevent the fighting in North Kivu from escalating into a repeat of the wider 1998-2003 Congo war that sucked in six neighbors.



-- A month after a Rwandan-brokered January 2007 peace deal collapsed, U.N. mediators announced a limited ceasefire on September 6, 2007 after two weeks of fighting in North Kivu province.

-- Nkunda, who made parts of North Kivu province into his personal fiefdom, later said he was abandoning the ceasefire because of attacks by the government, which in turn accused him of pushing the country toward war.

-- Fresh talks opened in January 2008 in Goma. On January 23, 2008, nearly two dozen rebel and militia movements, including Nkunda’s CNDP, signed the peace accord with Congo’s government to end 10 years of conflict in North and South Kivu.

The deal, brokered by the U.N. and Western diplomats, was plagued by almost daily ceasefire violations from the start and fell apart by mid-2008.

-- Earlier this month, dissident CNDP military commanders said they would stop fighting government troops, a move that appeared to sideline the movement’s founder Nkunda. The announcement followed a split in the CNDP between leader Nkunda and his military chief, General Bosco “Terminator” Ntaganda, who is wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court.


-- The roots of Nkunda’s rebellion lie in unresolved ethnic and political tensions that make racially mixed eastern Democratic Republic of Congo a tinderbox.

-- The region is rich in minerals, such as coltan which is used in mobile phones, making control of the remote terrain, far from Congo’s capital Kinshasa, a lucrative business.

-- The presence in east Congo of both Tutsi and Hutu rebels stems from Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, in which 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in 100 days by the Hutu-led government and ethnic militias.

-- Hutu militias fled to Congo, their presence provoking Tutsi-led Rwandan invasions that helped ignite Congo’s wider 1998-2003 war. The war and an ensuing humanitarian crisis have killed some 5.4 million people, most through hunger and disease.

-- Nkunda led a revolt in 2004 with 4,000 soldiers and briefly captured the South Kivu capital Bukavu. An international arrest warrant was issued for him for war crimes committed while occupying Bukavu.

-- After 2006 national elections aimed at drawing a line under the war, Congolese President Joseph Kabila, who won re-election, pledged to bring peace to Congo’s east.

-- Nkunda has said he was fighting to protect his Tutsi people in eastern Congo against attacks by the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a Rwandan Hutu rebel group which controls parts of North Kivu. He said Kabila’s government backed the FDLR, a charge the government denied. The government had also in the past accused Rwanda’s government of backing Nkunda, while Rwanda denounced Congolese army cooperation with the FDLR. The FDLR included ex-Rwandan soldiers and Interahamwe militia accused of taking part in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

-- Earlier this week, Rwandan troops crossed into eastern Congo in a joint operation against the FDLR -- a sign of improved relations between Congo and Rwanda. More than 3,500 Rwandan troops joined Congolese government forces on a mission to disarm Rwandan Hutu FDLR fighters.

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