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Congo sends troops to east

06 April 2012, 13:03

Kinshasa - Congo's army has despatched hundreds of reinforcements to the east of the country after hundreds of soldiers abandoned their posts and at least 10 were killed in clashes between factions within the army.

Officials said on Thursday that the troubled Kivu provinces had been in a state of high alert since the weekend after troops linked to former rebel commander Bosco Ntaganda - now a general in the Congolese army - started abandoning their posts amid rumours of his imminent arrest for alleged war crimes.

Ntaganda is wanted by the International Criminal Court and Congo has come under pressure to arrest him, but Kinshasa has so far refused, saying his influence with former rebels remained central to maintaining the relative peace in the east.

A witness at Goma's airport saw hundreds of soldiers arriving by plane late on Wednesday but it was not immediately clear where they would be deployed to.

The authorities in Kinshasa said on Thursday that a "madness" had swept the troubled eastern provinces in recent days and called for "out of control" soldiers to return to order.

The Kivus saw some of the worst violence during Congo's two wars, which killed millions, and localised rebellions continued there for years after the official end to conflict in 2003.

Ntaganda, accused of war crimes committed during fighting elsewhere in Congo's conflict, has been central to a fragile peace since 2009, but the process of integrating former rebels into Congo's army has been fraught with delays and parallel chains of command remain.

- Reuters


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