Dozens of militia fighters surrender in eastern DRC

More than 100 militia fighters have surrendered to government forces in eastern DR Congo's restive North Kivu province, army officials said Tuesday.

Colonel William Amisi told AFP that "134 fighters carrying around 70 weapons have surrendered" to his troops in the town of Kitchanga, 120 kilometres (75 miles) northeast of the provincial capital Goma.

The surrendering fighters include members of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a notorious Rwandan Hutu group, regional army spokesman Major Guillaume Ndjike Kaiko told AFP. 

Fighters from Nyatura Abazungu, an armed group claiming to defend the interests of ethnic Hutus in North Kivu, have also handed themselves in, Kaiko said. 

Nyatura Abazungu's leader Jean-Marie Bonane is in negotiations with government forces with a view to surrendering, a member of the group and two local sources said on condition of anonymity.

President Felix Tshisekedi placed North Kivu and neighbouring Ituri province under a "state of siege" on May 6 in a bid to clamp down on militia groups waging a bloody conflict in the east.

Civilian governors have been replaced by senior army and police officers under the measure. 

North Kivu's military governor General Constant Ndima called on other fighters to "lay down your weapons, because people are sick of your atrocities". 

"The time of negotiations has passed," Ndima told a crowd in Kitchanga, saying authorities would no longer negotiate with groups that have taken up arms against the state.

"I have instructed the FARDC (the Congolese army) to track down the rebels without pity," he added.

President Tshisekedi has been on a visit to the conflict-torn east since June 12, and has repeatedly called on armed groups to surrender during his speeches.

An estimated 120 militia groups operate in the mineral-rich eastern DRC, many of them a legacy of two regional wars from 1996 to 2003.

The conflict has claimed hundreds of civilian lives this year alone.

Topics: DR Congo , War , Guillaume Ndjike Kaiko , Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda
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