DR Congo

Southern African leaders call for DRC ceasefire

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JOHANNESBURG, Nov 9 (Reuters) - A summit of Southern African leaders on Sunday called for a ceasefire in eastern Congo to give displaced people access to humanitarian assistance.

Aid agency efforts to help thousands of people displaced by fighting in Democratic Republic of Congo largely failed on Saturday, despite an appeal by African leaders for a ceasefire.

Opening a regional summit in Johannesburg, South African President Kgalema Motlanthe said the Southern African Development Community (SADC) group of nations wanted an immediate ceasefire in Congo.

"We firmly believe that there is no military solution to the problem," said Motlanthe, whose country is the current SADC chairman.

"The involvement of all role players including SADC in the DRC is central, which means we should continue to play a prominent role, hence the need to deliberate on our strategic intervention."

The SADC summit is discussing the DRC, a deadlock in power-sharing talks in Zimbabwe and other regional issues. It is not clear what action the SADC could take to strengthen efforts to stabilise the eastern DRC.

The world's biggest U.N. peacekeeping force, the 17,000-strong MONUC, has been unable to stem the latest fighting to rock Congo since a 1998-2003 regional war driven in part by competition for its huge mineral resources.

Over 5 million people have died in a decade of conflict.

African leaders and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met in Nairobi on Friday to tackle the conflict, rooted in Rwanda's 1994 genocide of some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

SADC member Angola, which has one of the largest armies in sub-Saharan Africa, has said it will not interfere in the DRC. It called on the United Nations to bolster its forces in the country.

(Reporting by Rebecca Harrison and Phumza Macanda; writing by Michael Georgy; editing by Tim Pearce)

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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