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Regional heads meet to end Congo violence

Tuesday, October 09, 2012    

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KAMPALA, Uganda (AFP) — Regional heads of state met in the Ugandan capital yesterday in their latest bid to end the chronic violence in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

DR Congo President Joseph Kabila and his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame headed into a summit at a lakeside resort hosted by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, and also attended by the leaders of Burundi, South Sudan and Tanzania.

Eastern DR Congo has been hit hard by a rebellion by army defectors who have formed a group called the M23, whose members are former fighters in an ethnic Tutsi rebel movement integrated into the military under a 2009 peace deal.

Bosco Ntaganda, wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on war crimes charges, is accused of leading the M23.

A UN report in June accused Rwanda of backing the rebels, causing a surge in tensions with neighbouring DR Congo. Kigali denies the charge and has been in talks with Kinshasa to set up a neutral force to tackle the unrest.

Rwanda for its part accuses Kinshasa of renewing cooperation with Rwandan rebels based in eastern DRC.

The summit will consider recommendations, drawn up at earlier meetings but which have so far made little headway, to set up an "international neutral force" to intervene in the area.

"This international neutral force is aimed at eradicating all the negative forces operating in eastern DRC," the 11-member International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), who are holding the summit, said in a statement.

However, analysts have warned that yesterday's summit is unlikely to succeed where the previous three failed.

"The mood in Kampala is sceptical," said Jason Stearns, an independent analyst who follows DR Congo, noting that the summit follows a mini-summit on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on September 27.

"Little concrete came out of the summit, and the UN said that the neutral force idea would have to be further refined for it to receive the backing of the Security Council," Stearns added.

The International Crisis Group warned in a recent report the ICGLR "seems to be promoting an unrealistic and ineffective solution by advocating for the deployment of a 4,000-strong neutral force at the border between Rwanda and the DRC."

Potential troop contributor nations that would be acceptable to both DRC and Rwanda are thin on the ground, while donors ready to finance such a force are also in short supply.

Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza, Salva Kiir of South Sudan and Tanzanian leader Jakaya Kikwete are also attending the meeting.

The summit is the fourth in three months organised by the ICGLR.

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