DR Congo

Chiluba Decries Intense Fighting In DR Congo

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Mildred Mulenga, PANA Correspondent
LUSAKA, Zambia (PANA) - Zambian President Frederick Chiluba denounced Friday the intensification of fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo, saying that the situation had degenerated from skirmishes to full scale war in certain areas.

"I met yesterday (Thursday) the UN envoy to the DRC conflict. The situation has become pretty bad. There are no more skirmishes any more, in certain areas there is full- scale war and there is fighting," Chiluba told a news conference in Lusaka.

Chiluba, who is the official mediator in the DRC conflict, said a meeting would be arranged to enable the belligerents find out the reasons for their fighting.

"We are trying to arrange for a meeting again and bring the parties, who have always confirmed their commitment to the Lusaka peace process, to ask them why fight again."

He disclosed that a new plan to disengage the warring parties would be prepared with the involvement of the UN.

Chiluba expressed the hope that the belligerents would allow the UN envoy, former Botswana president, Ketumile Masire, to effectively exercise the mandate he received from the warring parties themselves.

He noted that Masire was not elected by outsiders, but the Congolese government and parties as the facilitator of internal dialogue in the DRC.

"I hope and pray that they give him (Masire) the opportunity to exercise that mandate and implement the plan," Chiluba said.

Chiluba was reacting to last week's refusal by the DRC government to grant permission to Masire to visit areas where cease-fire violations had been reported.

Masire left Kinshasa after being denied clearance to visit cities in the interior of the country.

Masire, who is the designated facilitator in a planned dialogue between Congolese government and rebels, said the refusal of Kabila's government to allow him to travel to the cities in question was a clear attempt to frustrate his efforts to bring peace to the DRC.

The DRC was plunged in fighting since August 1998 when rebels backed by Rwanda and Uganda started fighting Kabila's government.

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