Rebel DRC leader objects to Chinese presents in the country

Goma – The rebel general besieging the DRC's eastern provincial capital wants direct negotiations with the government about security and his objections to a $5-billion (about R50-billion) deal that gives China access to the region's mineral resources.

General Laurent Nkunda said in a phone interview on Thursday that the reason he called a ceasefire on Wednesday, as he reached the gates of Goma, was to try to stop chaos in the city. He said he wants UN peacekeepers to help refugees return home.

Nkunda, leading a Tutsi rebellion in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, said the government was not protecting the country’s Tutsi minority.

He said he had turned down a government offer of $2,5-million to stop fighting because he could not abandon his mission to protect the DRC’s people.

He also said he saw his role in a peaceful DRC as reformer of the ragtag army. His rebels have driven the DRC army into retreat near Goma, but the army says it still controls the city.

Struggles for the DRC’s mineral wealth have long been part of the country’s wars.

A UN investigation on the illegal exploitation of natural resources in the DRC found that the conflict in the country had become mainly about "access, control and trade" of coltan, diamonds, copper, cobalt and gold.

Exploitation of the DRC’s natural resources by foreign armies was "systematic and systemic", and the Ugandan and Rwandan leaders in particular had turned their soldiers into "armies of business".

The investigation estimated that Rwanda’s army made at least $250-million in 18 months by selling coltan, which is used in cellphones and laptops.

The conflict "has created a ‘win-win’ situation for all belligerents", the 2001 report concluded. – Sapa-AP