UN ENVOY MAKES FRESH BID TO BROKER CONGO PEACE DEAL


A U.N. special envoy began a fresh bid on Friday to set up peace talks between Congo’s government and Tutsi rebels, but the two sides seemed far apart on how to end their festering conflict in the country’s east.

Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo arrived in Kinshasa on his second mission in two weeks to try to stop the violence in Democratic Republic of Congo’s North Kivu province, where thousands of civilians are still fleeing fighting.

A ceasefire declared by Tutsi rebel General Laurent Nkunda has halted battles with government troops, but Nkunda’s fighters have been attacking Congolese and Rwandan militia allies of the government, sending refugees fleeing east into Uganda.Obasanjo, who met Nkunda and President Joseph Kabila almost two weeks ago, wants to broker direct talks to end violence since August that has driven over 250,000 from their homes.

But recent statements from both sides have dampened prospects of face-to-face talks between Nkunda and Kabila.”Talks between Kabila and Nkunda seem highly unlikely, but we still hope there will be some kind of direct talks between the government and the rebels,” a western diplomat in Kinshasa told Reuters on Friday.

Kabila’s government, which calls Nkunda’s revolt an unlawful challenge against an democratically-elected administration, insists that he should return to a peace pact he signed in January along with other eastern rebel and militia factions.

But Nkunda has rejected this deal as one-sided and wants direct talks on security and ethnic issues in the vast, mineral-rich former Belgian colony, which was devastated by a 1998-2003 war involving many of its neighbours.Rebel spokesman Bertrand Bisimwa told Reuters on Friday that Nkunda’s National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) movement was unhappy about the government’s position.

“If … confirmed, it means the government has closed all the doors,” Bisimwa said. But he added the rebels would not immediately abandon the ceasefire if there were no direct talks.The 17,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping in Congo (MONUC), which has appeared powerless to stop the violence, is awaiting troop reinforcements which could take at least two months to arrive.

SOURCED FROM REUTERS.

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