ICRC visits NDF prisoners

Representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have visited 11 Namibian Defence Force (NDF) soldiers held captive in Kigali, Rwanda by rebels of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), an NDF spokesman confirmed to IRIN
on Thursday.

According to the spokesman, the soldiers were captured about five months ago in skirmishes with the rebels in the Lusambo area, 120 km north-east of Mbuji-Mayi. "The visit by the ICRC is in terms of the ceasefire agreement signed in July in Lusaka, Zambia between all the countries involved in the DRC war," Vincent Mwange told IRIN.

'The Namibian' on Thursday quoted Namibia's Defence secretary as saying ICRC delegates have been shuttling between the capitals of the six belligerent states for consultations on how to facilitate the release of prisoners.

A Zimbabwean-based ICRC official also confirmed to IRIN that his
organisation is visiting prisoners of war. "However, ICRC is not in a position to decide on the release of the prisoners, as this is a political decision to be made by the governments involved in the war," the official told IRIN.

The Joint Military Commission (JMC), created in terms of the Lusaka Peace Agreement, is to oversee the implementation of the accord and will be composed of two representatives from the six countries involved in the war as well as representatives of the rebels. However, Mwange said the JMC has not yet started its work and is running behind schedule.

At the same time, President Frederick Chiluba of Zambia, the official peace broker in the war, told the UN Security Council last week that the JMC would meet on 10 October. The UN has already deployed half of the 90 military liaison officers in the capitals of the six countries to help implement the peace agreement.

Rwanda and Uganda are supporting the rebels who have been fighting for a year to oust the government of Laurent-Desire Kabila, while Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola are fighting on Kabila's side.