By Manoah Esipisu
LUSAKA (Reuters) - African heads of state meet in the Zambian capital on Wednesday in a bid to save a fragile peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo from collapse, senior officials said on Tuesday.
The leaders of Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, the Congo, Mozambique, Uganda and Rwanda will also examine a critical cash shortage facing the Joint Military Commission (JMC) -- the body set up to supervise the cease-fire in the Congo.
''The summit will go ahead on Wednesday,'' Zambia's Presidential Affairs Minister Eric Silwamba told Reuters.
The talks follow last month's high-profile meeting in New York when African presidents addressed members of the U.N. Security Council on conflicts in Africa.
They come in the wake of Congolese President Laurent Kabila's decision to hold parliamentary elections and press ahead with internal dialogue outside the truce framework.
The war in the Congo, Africa's third largest country, pits the Kinshasa government backed by Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe against rebels supported by Rwanda and Uganda.
A cease-fire was signed last July and endorsed by the rebels in August but fighting has continued across the former Zaire.
''If those involved in the Congo can respect the cease-fire and move forward to other issues, we would be happy,'' Chiluba, who mediated the truce, told reporters at the weekend.
Ministers Of Truce Body Meet Before Summit
Ministers who form the Political Committee of the JMC were due to meet later on Tuesday to review decisions reached after four days of talks by the JMC.
''The JMC has completed its work,'' said Brigadier-General Timothy Kazembe, Zambia's defense secretary and vice chairman of the commission.
''The Political Committee will meet later today (Tuesday) to thrash out implementation of some of our decisions and chart out the way forward,'' Kazembe told Reuters.
Kabila on Monday decreed an amnesty for those taking part in the 18-month-old rebellion. His decree said dissidents seeking amnesty must return to the country within 60 days or register with the Congolese embassy in their country of residence.
Rebels requesting amnesty must register with the authorities at their point of entry into government-controlled territory.
Rwanda and Uganda are wary about Kabila's plans.
At talks in New York, set up through the efforts of U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Richard Holbrooke, African leaders said they were committed to the Congo peace but wanted the United Nations to hasten the deployment of peacekeepers.
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has proposed a 5,500-strong U.N. cease-fire monitoring mission estimated to cost some $160 million. The United States is expected to pay about $42 million of that.
The African leaders will also try to settle the problem of unpaid allowances to JMC members, which threatens to derail the body's work of monitoring the cease-fire.
- Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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