Laurent Nkunda

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Laurent Nkunda (b. February 2, 1967) is a former General in the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and is the current leader of the Tutsi rebel group Rally for Congolese Democracy-Goma (RCD-Goma), operating in the province of Nord-Kivu. Nkunda, who currently commands about 3,000 troops formerly belonging to the 81st and 83rd DRC Army Brigades, has been indicted for war crimes in September 2005 and is under investigation by the International Criminal Court.<ref name="hrw">"Arrest Laurent Nkunda For War Crimes", Human Rights Watch, February 1, 2006</ref>

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[edit] Rwandan Genocide

During the Rwandan Genocide, the former pyschology student travelled to Rwanda, joining the Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front (FPR) who were fighting against the Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR), the military of the genocidal Hutu-led government.<ref name="indp1">"We are ready for war, rebels warn Kabila", The Independent, August 3, 2006</ref>

[edit] First Congo War

After the FPR defeated the FAR to become the new government of Rwanda, Nkunda returned to the DRC. During the First Congo War, he fought alongside Laurent-Désiré and Joseph Kabila who successfuly overthrew Mobutu from power.<ref name="indp1"/>

[edit] Second Congo War

At the outset of the Second Congo War, Nkunda joined and become a Major in the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RDC), fighting on the side of Rwandan, Ugandan, Burundiian, and other Tutsi-aligned forces (the latter are a relatively small group in the DRC, numbering between half a million to a million, but are a significant military force). In May 2002, he was accused of massacring 160 people in Kisangani, prompting UN Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson to call for his arrest following the abduction and beating of two UN investigators by his troops.<ref name="hrw"/>

[edit] General turned renegade

In 2003, with the official end to war, Nkunda joined the new integrated national army of the Transitional Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo as a Colonel and by 2004, he was promoted to General. He, however, soon rejected the authority of the government and retreated with some of RCD-Goma troops to the Masisi forests in Nord Kivu.<ref name="hrw"/>

[edit] 2004 Bukavu offensive

Later in 2004, Nkunda's forces began clashing with the DRC army in Sud-Kivu and by May 2004, occupied Bukavu where he was accused of committing war crimes.<ref name="indp">"Rebel troops capture Bukavu and threaten third Congo war", The Independent, June 3, 2004</ref> Nkunda claimed he was attempting to prevent genocide against Tutsi in the region,<ref>"DRC: Interview with rebel general Laurent Nkunda", IRIN, September 2, 2006</ref> a claim rejected by MONUC,<ref>"DRC: UN preliminary report rules out genocide in Bukavu", IRIN, January 17, 2004</ref> and denied the claim that he was following orders from Rwanda. Following UN negotiations which secured the withdrawal of Nkunda's troops from Bakuvu back to the Masisi forests, part of his army split, and led by Colonel Jules Mutebusi,<ref name="indp"/> left for Rwanda. About 150,000 Kinyarwanda-speaking people (Nkunda's own language) were reported to have fled from Sud-Kivu to Nord-Kivu in fear of reprisal attacks by DRC army .<ref>"DRC: Government troops seize rebel stronghold, general says", IRIN, September 14, 2004</ref>

[edit] 2005 clashes with DRC army

In 2005, Nkunda called for the overthrow of the government due to its corruption and increasing numbers of RCD-Goma soliders deserted the DRC army to join his forces.<ref>"Nkunda Building Forces: Rebel General Draws on More Deserting Troops", Sobaka, September 16, 2005</ref> In January 2006, his troops clashed with DRC army forces, also accused of war crimes by the MONUC.<ref>"DRC: Human rights situation in Feb 2006", MONUC, March 18, 2006</ref> Further clashes took place during August 2006 around the town of Sake.<ref>"Rebel troops clash with army in eastern Congo", SABC, August 5, 2006</ref> MONUC, however, refused to arrest Nkunda after an international arrest warrant was issued against him, stating that: "Mr Laurent Nkunda does not present a threat to the local population, thus we cannot justify any action against him." <ref>"DRC: No plan to arrest dissident ex-general", IRIN, September 23, 2006</ref> As late as June 2006, Nkunda became subject to United Nations Security Council restrictions.<ref>"List of individuals and entities subject to the measures imposed by paragraph 13 and 15 of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1596 (2005), pursuant to Resolution 1533 (2004)", United Nations Security Council, November 5, 2005-June 6, 2006</ref>

[edit] 2006 general election

During both the first and second rounds of the contested and violent 2006 general election, Nkunda had said that he will respect the results.<ref>"DRC: Interview with Jacqueline Chenard, spokeswoman for MONUC in Kivu North", IRIN, July 30, 2006</ref> <ref>"Congo’s rebel leader watches and waits", Financial Times, August 7 2006</ref><ref>"DRC rebel leader commits to peace", SABC, October 27, 2006</ref> On November 25, however, nearly a day before the Supreme Court ruled that Joseph Kabila had won the presidential election's second round, Nkunda's forces undertook a sizable offensive in Sake against the DRC army 11th Brigade,<ref>"Congo Warlord's Fighters Attack Forces", Washington Post, November 26, 2006</ref> also clashing with MONUC peacekeepers.<ref>"UN says engages rebels as army flees Congo town", Reuters, November 26, 2006</ref> The attack may not have been related to the election but due to the "killing of a Tutsi civilian who was close to one of the commanders in this group." The UN has called on the DRC government to negotiate with Nkunda and DRC Interior Minister, General Denis Kalume, was sent to eastern DRC to begin negotiations. <ref>"UN Calls for Negotiations in Eastern DRC", Voice of America, November 27, 2006</ref>

[edit] References

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Laurent Nkunda

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