DR Congo

DR Congo summit announced for Friday as rebels clash with militia

Nairobi_(dpa) _ A regional summit on the conflict in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo is to take place in Nairobi Friday, a Kenyan foreign ministry official said Wednesday as small-scale fighting between rebels and pro-government militia continued for a second day.

"There will be a summit on Friday," Patrick Wamoto, Head of the Kenyan Foreign Ministry's African and African Union Directorate, told Deutsche Presse Agentur dpa. "The agenda is DR Congo."

The presidents of DR Congo and Rwanda, Joseph Kabila and Paul Kagame, will definitely attend the summit at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre in downtown Nairobi, Wamoto said.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said he would attend the summit. Leaders from Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and South Africa are also expected to attend.

Western diplomats feel that the only way to resolve the conflict is to bring Rwanda and the DR Congo together at the table.

DR Congo has accused Rwanda of backing rebel Tutsi general Laurent Nkunda, whose forces last week routed the Congolese army and came close to taking Goma, the capital of North Kivu province.

Nkunda says he is fighting to protect Tutsis from armed Hutu groups. Many Hutus fled to DR Congo after the 1994 massacres in Rwanda when Hutu militants killed an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in the space of a few months.

However, many analysts say that the ethnic dimension of the conflict is just a smokescreen for militia to grab a slice of DR Congo's mineral deposits.

DR Congo is rich in deposits of gold, tin, diamonds and columbite-tantalite or coltan - used widely in mobile phones. The resources are believed to be worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

Nkunda's National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) last Wednesday called a ceasefire, which has held so far, although his troops have retained control of the territory they seized.

While the CNDP on Wednesday clashed with Mai-Mai militia for the second day running near the northeastern town of Rutshuru, there were no clashes with the Congolese army.

The CNDP and the Mai Mai were signatories to January peace accords designed to end sporadic clashes that occurred during 2007, four years after he 1998-2003 war ended.

However, the peace accords began to crumble in late August, and aid agencies say that renewed fighting between the CNDP and government forces has displaced at least 250,000 people.

As many as 50,000 of these people fled during four days of fighting last week, many of them to the Goma area.

A UN convoy has delivered health supplies to towns behind rebel lines, but aid agencies say urgent help is needed for thousands of people believed to be searching for food and shelter in the woods.

The UN peacekeeping mission in the DR Congo (MONUC) backed up the Congolese army during the CNDP offensive, but it was unable to hold back the rebel tide.

MONUC chief Alan Doss said last week that his troops, which number 17,000 across the whole of the sprawling central African nation, were stretched to their limit by the conflict.

Calls for more UN troops to be deployed in the country have so far not been answered with any firm commitments, although a Security Council meeting on the subject is being mooted for late November.

More than 5 million people are estimated to have died as a result of the 1998-2003 war in the resource-rich nation, most of them from hunger and disease.

The conflict is often referred to as the African World War, owing to the large number of different armed forces involved. dpa ml bve


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