DR Congo + 1 more

Zimbabwe-DRC: Peace process on track

JOHANNESBURG, 9 December (IRIN) - The peace process in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is "on track" through a combination of high-level contact between the main foreign protagonists and US diplomatic influence, Zimbabwe's presidential spokesman George Charamba told IRIN on Thursday.
"The President is in contact with his colleagues in Rwanda and Uganda," Charamba said. "Hardly two weeks ago the Rwandese presidential affairs minister was here with messages. Four days ago (Ugandan President Yoweri) Museveni was in contact over the DRC issue ... There is real political will to follow through with this."

Two separate US delegations have visited Harare this week led by American UN ambassador Richard Holbrooke and Democratic Party leader Richard Gephardt. Both discussed the DRC conflict with President Robert Mugabe.

"The general impression is that the US is throwing its moral and material weight behind the Lusaka peace agreement, a factor which had been missing all along," Charamba added.

He said fighting by allied troops to lift a rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) siege of the northwestern town of Ikela, where mainly Zimbabwean troops were trapped without supplies until agreement on access was reached this week, was not a threat to the overall truce.

"There are things that can happen in a ceasefire process without endangering it," Charamba said. "It would take quite a major event to shift Zimbabwe from the Lusaka peace agreement."

He denied media reports of a rift between Mugabe and a more hardline DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila over the implementation of the Lusaka accord. Charamba said a meeting between the allies - Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe and the DRC - is due on Saturday in Windhoek, Namibia.

"It's about seeing how we can carry the whole peace process forward, not about pulling out. There is absolutely no difference between the two presidents on this."

According to Charamba, Zimbabwe's optimism over a DRC settlement springs in part from internal political initiatives in Uganda and Rwanda which he described as "extraordinary". He singled out Kampala's amnesty offer to its own rebels and reported rapprochement with Sudan as moves which could help stabilise the region.

"President Mugabe has been trying to communicate to Rwanda and Uganda that the hostile forces that spill over into the DRC are the direct consequences of their exclusionary politics at home," Charamba said.


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