New Leader Chosen for Congo Main Rebel Movement
The Democratic Republic of Congo's main rebel movement has chosen Adolphe Onusumba as its new president to replace Emile Ilunga who resigned, a top rebel official told AFP late Saturday.
"Adolphe Onusumba was elected with a big majority," said Moise Nyarugabo, former vice president of the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD), by telephone from his headquarters in Goma, in the far east of the DRC.
Nyarugabo resigned at the same time as Ilunga and first vice president Jean-Pierre Ondekane, the rebels' military chief.
The election of Onusumba, a doctor, followed a meeting earlier Saturday attended by a large Rwandan delegation at which the resignations were tendered.
The resignations came at the end of a week of heavy fighting in which the RCD lost most of its positions in southeastern Katanga province to troops backing DRC President Laurent Kabila.
Rebels backed by Uganda and Rwanda have been fighting Kabila since August 1998, and control vast swathes of the country, mainly in the north and east. The RCD has two factions: the Rwandan-backed RCD, and the Ugandan-backed RCD-ML (Libertaion Movement), which broke away from the RCD last year.
"The fact that war has restarted has been a determining factor (in the resignations) ... but the desire for change was already there," Nyarugabo told AFP, adding: "We have stepped down from our positions but not from the revolution."
The change at the top of the movement comes after mounting criticism of the former leaders from top rebel officials, angered at the RCD's recent losses to Kabila's troops.
"Everything is going wrong, money is disappearing ... and on top of it, we got beaten for the first time since the beginning of the war," one member of the RCD executive told AFP recently, asking to remain anonymous.
Former vice president Ondekane said he had resigned to concentrate on the army.
"My fighting companions asked me to resign so that I can devote myself to the army because politics has taken us away from what is most important," Ondekane was quoted as saying by a participant in the meeting.
Onusumba, 34, is a relative newcomer to the rebel cause.
He joined the RCD in April 1999 and was sent for eight months of military training in Rwanda.
On his return to the DRC, he was given the position of deputy governor of Kasai Oriental province, which is under rebel control. He was then named head of the movement's external relations department.
One rebel official, who was at the meeting, hailed the change in leadership.
"Up until now there were too many obstacles, so this change is a good thing, it will be a new experience and we hope this time we will get the right result," said the official, who asked to remain anonymous – KIGALI (AFP)
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