KINSHASA, 23 January (IRIN) - Amos
Namanga Ngongi, the Special Representative of UN Secretary-General Kofi
Annan in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), announced on Wednesday
that peace talks aimed at ending the fighting in the northeastern district
of Ituri could begin by the end of February.
"Within one or two weeks, I think I will be able to convene the various stakeholders for a preparatory meeting," Ngongi said at a news conference in the DRC capital, Kinshasa. "We hope that by mid-to-late February there will be a momentum, a dynamism for the Ituri Pacification Commission [IPC] to get off the ground."
Continued fighting around Bunia, the primary city of Ituri, has made it difficult for the IPC to get started. Ngongi said he had discussed the IPC with presidents Joseph Kabila of the DRC and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda. Ngongi said that they had accepted his proposal to differentiate problems between their two countries and the activation of the IPC in northeastern DRC, where a Ugandan battalion has remained since both leaders signed a peace agreement on 6 September 2002 in the Angolan capital, Luanda.
"I am calling on the two presidents to honour the agreement they signed so that we can see the accord implemented," Ngongi said. The Luanda accord called for the establishment of the IPC.
Ngongi also said it was important to include all parties in the peace talks - notably the Union des patriotes congolais (UPC), an ethnically-based militia in Bunia, headed by Thomas Lubanga. The UPC is a relatively new rebel movement that has not signed any of the prior peace accords in the DRC, and therefore believes itself to be exempt from them.
Ngongi said he was relieved that three other armed groups in the region - the Mouvement de liberation du Congo (MLC), the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie-National (RCD-N) and the RCD-Kisangani-Mouvement de liberation (RCD-K-ML) - were beginning to observe the ceasefire agreement they signed on 30 December 2002 in the northwestern DRC town of Gbadolite.
"There are still some members of the MLC in Mambasa, but they are either ill or wounded," Ngongi said. "The soldiers of the RCD-K-ML are 35 km from Mambasa, and we hope that within 10 days the ceasefire accord will be completed respected." Ngongi said that he had received such assurances from MLC leader Jean-Pierre Bemba, RCD-N leader Roger Lumbala, and RCD-K/ML leader Mbusa Nyamwisi.
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