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Q+A-Summit on east Congo: Can it stop the violence?

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Nov 7 (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met African leaders at a summit in Kenya on Friday to try to end the conflict in the east of Democratic Republic of Congo.

The meeting brought to Nairobi the presidents of Congo and Rwanda, Joseph Kabila and Paul Kagame, who accuse each other of backing rebel groups in east Congo where rival insurgencies trace their origins back to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

But Congolese rebel leader Laurent Nkunda, whose Tutsi fighters have battled government troops in Congo's North Kivu province, was not invited to the summit.

He said on Friday the meeting would not end his rebellion unless it could convince Kabila to negotiate with him -- an issue that could be key to ending the fighting.

Below are some questions and answers about the summit in Nairobi and the prospects for resolving the conflict.

What do Congo and Rwanda want from the summit?

-- Congo has accused its eastern Great Lakes neighbour Rwanda of backing Congolese Tutsi rebels led by renegade General Laurent Nkunda, who has fought government troops in North Kivu province. In October, the Congolese government accused Rwanda's Tutsi-led government of sending its troops into North Kivu to help Nkunda. It provided the U.N. Security Council with photographs of weapons, ammunition, documents and equipment it said proved the Rwandan military support for Nkunda.

Congo wants Rwanda to end all support for Nkunda's rebellion, including preventing Rwandan territory from being used by the insurgents. The U.N. says it has "credible evidence" that some fire came from the Rwandan side of the border during fighting last week between the rebels and the Congolese army.

-- Rwanda categorically denies supporting Nkunda. Rwandan President Paul Kagame says North Kivu's fighting is "95 percent a Congolese problem" which the Congolese government should solve.

Rwanda says Congo has failed to fulfil a deal signed in 2007 to disarm Rwandan Hutu rebels of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), whom Nkunda considers sworn enemies of his Congolese Tutsi people.

The FDLR includes soldiers and militiamen who took part in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

What does Nkunda think of the summit?

-- Rebel chief Nkunda, who denies his 4,000 National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) rebels represent Rwandan interests, has described the Nairobi summit as "a good thing". But he has not been asked to take part.

But he says his fight with the Congolese government is "an internal problem which has to have an internal solution". He has demanded that Kabila's government open direct talks with him on the future of Congo, concentrating on security and good governance. He says he does not want to be president but has made clear he wants to serve his country in some role.

He has threatened to relaunch a military offensive -- suspended in a ceasefire last week -- against the North Kivu provincial capital Goma, if the government refuses to talk.

What has the FDLR said about the Nairobi summit?

The Rwandan Hutu rebel FDLR, through its exiled leadership in Germany, has denied Congolese accusations that it is fighting alongside the Congo government army against Nkunda.

It describes Nkunda as an agent of the Rwandan government and says he is fighting to overthrow the Congolese government.

The FDLR says it will support initiatives to bring peace but adds this will only be achieved through frank and direct dialogue between Kigali and the FDLR.

What are the United Nations, the African Union, the European Union and the United States seeking from the peace summit?

-- The African Union hopes the summit will end the fighting.

-- U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is calling for an immediate halt to fighting in eastern Congo and says all forces must withdraw to positions they held at the end of August.

Ban has asked the Security Council to approve a "surge" of 3,000 more U.N. troops and police to reinforce the 17,000-strong pacekeeping force in Congo, which is being heavily criticised for failing to prevent killings of civilians.

Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, the newly nominated U.N. special envoy for east Congo, says peacekeepers may need to be redeployed or given a stronger mandate.

-- The European Union is also backing a redeployment and strengthening of the U.N. Congo peacekeeping force and its mandate, but some EU ministers say a deployment of European soldiers to protect civilians has not been ruled out.

A proposal by EU chairman France to send up to 1,500 EU troops to Congo, encountered resistance from some member states.

-- Top U.S. Africa diplomat Jendayi Frazer is at the summit, hoping the Congolese government and Nkunda's rebels will agree peace, regional leaders will support a negotiated solution.

But Frazer is cautious. "I've learned in my time in dealing with that region that hopes can be quickly dashed," she said.

What is at stake for Congo and the region?

The fighting threatens to take on a regional dimension, underlining the limited progress of Congo's peace process despite the 2006 elections and the subsequent flood of investors into mining and oil projects.

The government is struggling to control the vast country, let alone provide basic services to its population of 60 million. (Writing by Pascal Fletcher and David Lewis; editing by Alistair Thomson and Angus MacSwan)

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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