Tutsi rebels from eastern Democratic Republic of Congo have suspended their involvement in a summit aimed at ending a long-running conflict in the region.
Members of a delegation representing fighters loyal to General Laurent Nkunda said that they would not take part on Thursday after their military spokesman was threatened with arrest.
"We have suspended our participation at the conference while security measures are taken," Jean-Desire Muiti, a member of the delegation, said.
The talks, bringing together government officials, local leaders and warring factions, opened on Sunday in the North Kivu provincial capital Goma.
Muiti said the decision was taken after an official from the UN peacekeeping mission accused Major Serephin Mirindi, Nkunda's military spokesman, of involvement in the 2001 assassination of Laurent Kabila, DR Congo's former preisdent.
He said that other members of the 10-man delegation were forced to intervene to prevent Mirindi being arrested by members the Republican Guard of current Joseph Kabila, the current president and Laurent's son.
However, Kemal Saiki, spokesman for the UN mission, said that the incident was a simple case of mistaken identity and that Mirindi was never threatened with arrest.
"The guy was not arrested. He was not detained. There was no intimidation. No threat. Nothing," he said.
Muiti said that his delegation was demanding a written commitment from the Republican Guard that they would not be harrassed or threatened.
"We will stay at the hotel until they answer us. If they don't, we will return to the bush," he said.
Neither Kabila nor Nkunda have attended the meetings personally.
|Laurent Nkunda and President Kabila have not |
personally attended the peace summit [AFP]
The summit, which is being attended by about 800 delegates has been hit by delays and disputes.
Originally it was scheduled to start on December 27, but then postponed until last Sunday. Then it was delayed by another day while delegates were registered.
Earlier in the week, a group representing the Mai Mai rebels walked out of the conference, accusing the government of using the peace talks only to address the Nkunda issue.
Meanwhile, villagers in Musezero in Nord-Kivu blamed the army for the killings of eight civilians, including three children.
Residents reportedly told UN officials that "men in uniform" had fired on civilians suspected of collaborating with Nkunda's fighters.
The UN mission also said that Nkunda's men were suspected of kidnapping four civilians in an area just west of Musezero on January 3.
Fierce fighting between the army and Nkunda's fighters has gripped Nord-Kivu since August. The army has deployed more than 25,000 troops to the area to fight an estimated 4,000 rebels loyal to Nkunda.