DRC Parliament Speaker Steps Down
By Derek Kilner
26 March 2009

The Democratic Republic of Congo's speaker of parliament has resigned, after he opposed the government's decision to invite Rwandan troops into the country to pursue a militia. Rwandan troops have since left the country, while U.N. peacekeepers and Congolese troops continue to pursue the militia.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, left, and National Assembly President Vital Kamerhe, in Kinshasa, Congo (File)

Speaker Vital Kamerhe announced his resignation before Congo's parliament on Wednesday.

"Please accept my resignation without a debate or a vote", he said. "God loves Congo and I have faith in the future of my country."

Kamerhe had been an ally of President Joseph Kabila. But in January, Kamerhe criticized the government's decision to invite Rwandan troops into the country to pursue a Rwandan Hutu militia, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda or FDLR, which has long contributed to instability in eastern Congo. He accused Rwanda of stealing Congo's mineral resources, and said the population was uncomfortable with the presence of Rwandan troops, given that county's interventions during Congo's civil war.

Rwandan troops withdrew from eastern Congo at the end of February. Rwanda says its forces killed about 150 members of the militia and disarmed about 1,300. President Paul Kagame recently told the magazine Jeune Afrique that Rwanda had "broken the backbone" of the FDLR. But with an estimated 6,000 to 8,000 fighters operating in the region, the militia is far from vanquished.

The Congolese military, along with the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the Congo have continued to pursue the FDLR, in attempt to prevent the rebels from regaining former strongholds. The peacekeeping force says the FDLR has tried to launch attacks on at least 11 locations since Rwandan forces withdrew.

Meanwhile, Congo's government has signed an agreement with the National Congress for Defense of the People, or CNDP, a Congolese Tutsi rebel group also operating in Eastern Congo.

The group's former leader, Laurent Nkunda was captured by Rwanda in January, where he is currently being held under house arrest. A United Nations report has accused Rwanda of backing Nkunda until recently, an allegation Rwanda has denied.

Congo's Minister of Cooperation, Raymond Tchibanda, welcomed the agreement, which also included various other armed groups in the region, at a signing ceremony in the eastern town of Goma on Monday.

The minister says the accord reaffirms that the political-military movement CNDP and the armed groups of North and South Kivu abandon the armed struggle, put their troops at the disposal of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo and transform into political parties. He said the armed groups agree to pursue any demands they have through politics, respecting the constitution of the republic.

Meanwhile, to the north, the Lord's Resistance Army, a Ugandan rebel group, continues to launch attacks on civilians. Uganda led a military operation to target the rebels, which concluded this week. But the UN says 11,000 people have been displaced by recent attacks by the group. Some 200,000 have been displaced by the LRA since September.