UPC refuses to sign ceasefire accord

The rebel Union des patriotes congolais (UPC), which Ugandan troops expelled from Bunia earlier in March, did not sign the Ituri Cessation of Hostilities Agreement reached on Tuesday by rival governments, political, ethnic and militia groups.

"We are ready to sign a ceasefire with Uganda, but not with the other groups with which we are not an adversary," Thomas Lubanga, the UPC leader, told IRIN on Wednesday

Lubanga, who had reportedly died in a Kisangani hospital from battlefield wounds, said he was speaking from a location near Bunia, the main town of Ituri District in northeastern DRC.

Ugandan and UPC forces fought each other in Fataki, 60 km northeast of Bunia, as the accord was being signed. Under the terms of the deal the parties have agreed to stop acquiring weapons, munitions and other military materials, and to halt the recruitment of child soldiers. They also agreed to free all hostages. In addition, the locales of Komanda and Mambasa should be demilitarised, in line with the Gbadolite accord of 30 December 2002.

Apart from the UPC, the other six active political-military groups in Ituri signed the agreement in Bunia. The signatories are the Lendu from Djugu territory; the Lendu-Bindi; the Parti pour l'Unite, la Sauvegarde et l'Integrite du Congo (or PUSIC), the FNI, the FPDC, and the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie-ML. These militia and leaders of various ethnic groups have been rivals in this mineral rich area for decades. Lubanga said he was not ready to lay down his weapons but would, instead, pursue the war against what he said was the "Ugandan occupation of Ituri".

The signing ceremony was witnessed by envoys of the governments of the DRC, Uganda, as well as military attachés of member states of the UN Security Council: Angola, Cameroon, China, the United Kingdom, the United States. Envoys of Belgium, the former colonial ruler of the DRC, and South Africa were also present.

The accord is due to be followed by the establishment on Thursday in Bunia of a preparatory body for the long-awaited Ituri Pacification Commission. The DRC official in charge of the peace process in the Great Lakes region, Vital Kamerhe, said the commission would enable Kinshasa to reassert its authority in Ituri.