Congolese hail release of 150 rebels

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, residents of the restive Kivu provinces are expressing relief after the government released 150 imprisoned rebels yesterday. 
They said the rebel release will bolster the newly found peace in the area following the Goma agreement. 
As part of the agreement, Congo’s parliament passed a law granting amnesty to the rebels and called for them to be integrated into the national army. 
Communications minister, Lambert Mende said that his government is embracing all Congolese in its effort to stabilize the country.
“Those people are being released because a law has been passed in parliament to give them amnesty. And they deserve that amnesty because they are under condition that can give them the right to be released,” Mende said.
He said the rebels have agreed to join the peace process.
“They of course are Congolese; they fought against governmental forces and they have accepted to join now the pacification process,” he said.
Mende said the rebels would be integrated into society based on their choice.
“Some of them would be integrated into the army; others will be inserted socially in their local framework. And we as a government, we did just what the parliament told us to do and it is our duty to reinsert our compatriots. And I think things are going very well for them,” Mende said.
He said the Goma peace agreement also enables the various armed groups to form political parties.
“As far as political integration is concerned it is a question of creating a political party. And when they create the political parties, they would be registered at the Ministry of Internal affairs and after that they would be allowed to join the opposition or join the majority,” he said.
Mende denied speculations that the rebel leadership would be given governmental positions.
“Nobody would be entitled to be let me say appointed say governor or minister or Member of Parliament out of an electoral process in Congo,” Mende said.
He said the government would not be blackmailed into giving positions to former combatants.
“If this was the case this would be a kind of blackmailing to the state and no state can accept to be blackmailed by anybody. But they have to negotiate like any Congolese political party,” he said.
Mende said the government is encouraged by the rate of progress with the implementation of the Goma peace agreement.
“We are working hard with everybody, Mai Mai, CNDP (National Congress for People’s Defense) and others. And I think that the integration within the army is a success,” Mende said.
He said the government would be subverting the constitution by appointing rebels into the administration without first joining the political process.
Meanwhile, the rebel Mai Mai group has welcomed the release of its former combatants, but claimed government should expedite the full implementation of the Goma Peace Agreement.