Arusha, November 13, 2012 (FH) – Former Congolese vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba has called from his prison cell in The Hague for his compatriots to end the war in the east of their country and avoid its breakup, Radio Okapi reports on Tuesday.

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Conflict broke out in April in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) between security forces and M-23 rebels who broke away from the army. Rwanda and Uganda have been accused of supporting the rebels, which they strongly deny.

Bemba is president of the MLC political party and one of the main political forces in the DRC. He is currently on trial before the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity committed in the neighbouring Central African Republic in 2002 and 2003.

In a message from his cell, Bemba “calls on the government in Kinshasa to put an end to war and insecurity in eastern Congo and to protect the civilian population”, according to Radio Okapi. The message sent Monday was read to the Congolese press by MLC secretary general Thomas Luhaka Losandjola.

Bemba called for reconciliation and unity among Congolese, so as to “save the endangered motherland”. Referring to the elections of November 2011, he also expressed the view that Congolese democracy was going backwards. Bemba was already in jail during the polls and was unable to run as a presidential candidate.

His trial before the ICC is due to resume next week with further testimony from defence witnesses. Bemba claims MLC troops sent to the CAR in 2002 and 2003 came under the command of Ange-Félix Patassé, the CAR president at the time. He denies any command responsibility for their actions.