6 January 2013

Congo-Kinshasa: DRC Government, Rebels Arrive For Talks

The two sides are in Kampala to resume peace talks suspended last December.

The Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC's M 23 rebels over the weekend arrived in the Ugandan capital, Kampala to resume peace talks with the Congolese government, the Sunday Monitor newspaper of Uganda reported yesterday, January 6, 2013.

A spokesman for the rebels, Bertrand Bisimwa, said the delegation had arrived in Kampala and was ready and waiting for the mediator to unveil the programme for the negotiations. A Congolese government delegation had already arrived in Uganda, although there was no clear indication of when talks would resume. A spokesman for Uganda's government, Fred Opolot, said late last week that Uganda's Defense Minister, Crispus Kiyonga, will mediate in the talks and was working closely with the two sides to help resolve sticking points.

The Voice of America, VOA, cited Kiyonga as saying the regional bloc has been working hard to ensure that both parties peacefully resolve the conflict in eastern DRC. The Ugandan government spokesman gave assurances that representatives of the Congolese government and the rebels had unanimously agreed on the rules, procedure and agenda for the talks. The rebels had earlier threatened to pull out of the talks, insisting that the government signs a ceasefire agreement. But the Kinshasa government rejected the demand.

The talks are the latest in several bids to end the long-running conflict that has forced hundreds of thousands of people in war-torn eastern DRC to flee their homes. Almost two weeks of talks in December 2012 ended without an agreement on the agenda for the negotiations, with the rebels issuing a series of demands, including a call for major political reform in the DRC.

The rebels, army mutineers largely from the ethnic Tutsi community, staged a lightning advance in November 2012 through Congo's mineral-rich and chronically unstable east region. Although they were persuaded to withdraw from the key eastern city of Goma after a 12-day occupation, they still control large swathes of territory. DRC's eastern region that borders Rwanda and Uganda was also the cradle of back-to-back wars that drew in much of the region from 1996 to 2003. The wars were fought largely over the region's vast wealth of gold, coltan and cassiterite, key components in the manufacture of electronic goods.

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