The Democratic Republic of Congo's President Joseph Kabila said he would not order the arrest of war crimes suspect Bosco Ntaganda "under pressure" from the international community.
"We have more than a hundred reasons to arrest him and we don't lack the force or the means to arrest him, but I will not work under pressure from the international community," Kabila said of Ntaganda while visiting the violence-plagued eastern province of Nord Kivu.
The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant in 2006 for Ntaganda, whose nickname is "Terminator", for charges of using child soldiers to fight for him in his militia group, the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP).
Ntaganda was chief of staff of the CNDP before it was integrated into the army in 2009 under a peace deal designed to end the conflict in eastern Congo, which at its height saw multiple rebel groups and several African countries do battle in the unstable region.
Scores of these former CNDP fighters who later joined the army have defected from the government forces in recent days, citing inhumane living condition, but Ntaganda said last week that he had not joined the defectors.
Kabila chastised the "indiscipline" exhibited by the defected soldiers and vowed to crack down, but said that regarding Ntaganda, he would act only in the national interest.
"Know that everything we are doing in the case of this officer is for the interest of Nord Kivu in particular and for the Congolese people in general," Kabila said in the provincial capital Goma, where Ntaganda is based.
Ntaganda is accused of recruiting child soldiers in 2002 and 2003 while in the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo, a rebellion led by Thomas Lubanga.
The ICC last month found Lubanga guilty of using child soldiers during a conflict in the eastern DRC's Ituri region, in which rights groups say some 60,000 people lost their lives between 1999 and 2003.
Kinshasa has previously refused to arrest Ntaganda, who is a general in its army, on the grounds that peace is more important than justice.© ANP/AFP