More rebels hand in arms in Ituri

Another group of militias from one of the last active rebel movements in the troubled Ituri district of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has handed in its weapons under an ongoing demobilisation, disarmament and reintegration (DDR) process, United Nations sources said.

About 223 former fighters of the Front des nationalistes et intégrationnistes (FNI) militia, whose leader, Peter Karim, was made a colonel in the national army in October 2006, surrendered their arms in Doi village, near the town of Kpandroma, northwest of Bunia, Ituri's administrative centre, according to Maj Gabriel de Brosses, spokesman for the UN Mission in Congo (MONUC).

Among those demobilised this week were child soldiers, who were immediately separated from adult fighters and put under the care of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the Italian non-governmental organisation, COOPI.

This was the second group of FNI militias to hand in their weapons this year. About 170 militiamen, out of FNI's estimated 1,000 fighters, surrendered their arms in February. The FNI had been, until then, outside the DDR process because Karim had imposed conditions on his group’s participation.

"Colonel Peter Karim has said that 100 more fighters should surrender [their arms] this week,” said De Brosses.

Thirty-eight AK47 assault rifles and 98 rounds of ammunition were handed in during the latest demobilisation exercise.

Two other armed groups, which continued their military campaign during the transition period after the 2003 peace agreement designed to end civil war in the DRC and even after the 2006 elections, have surrendered their arms under the DDR programme.

Ituri has been ravaged by ethnic conflict since 1999. More than six armed groups have fought intermittently, leaving more than 50,000 people dead and another 400,000 displaced.

ei/re/jn/mw