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Sunday, 20 October, 2002, 07:01 GMT 08:01 UK
Congo talks 'to resume'
DR Congo fighters
Fighting has been continuing in eastern Congo
Talks between the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo and rebel groups will resume on 25 October in South Africa, the United Nations special envoy, Moustapha Niasse, has said.

The talks are aimed at forming a coalition government ahead of what are intended to be the first free elections since the country became independent in 1960.

Earlier, one of the main rebel groups - the Rwandan-backed Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) - said it was ready to resume talks now that its forces were back in control of the eastern port town of Uvira.

The town was recaptured on Friday night by the RCD, a week after being taken by the Mai Mai militia, which the rebels say is being backed by the Kinshasa government, a charge they deny.

Mr Niasse, a former Senegalese prime minister, told the French news agency AFP that he hoped representatives of civil society and the political opposition would also take part in the talks.

"The three warring parties - the government in Kinshasa and the two rebel groups, the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) and the Congolese Rally for Democracy - will discuss the contents of provisions of the comprehensive and inclusive agreement," he said.

The talks planned for Pretoria will follow on from similar meetings in Sun City, South Africa, in March and April.

RCD Secretary General Azarias Ruberwa warned that if the Kinshasa government "did not change its attitude", the rebel group would re-negotiate some points that had already been decided.

One of these is the principle that President Joseph Kabila should continue as head of state during the transition to democratic elections.

A peace agreement signed earlier this year - which the RCD accuses the Kinshasa government of breaking in the past week - provided for Mr Kabila to remain in power during a transitional period.

Town recaptured

The RCD says it captured more than 50 fighters when it retook Uvira, and they included government soldiers as well as Burundian and Rwandan Hutu rebels.

Although last week, UN peacekeepers (Monuc) said there were no Hutu Interahamwe forces in Uvira

Many of the Hutu rebels have been implicated in the 1994 Rwandan genocide in which an estimated 800,000 people - mainly minority Tutsis - were massacred.

The RCD estimates that about 100 civilians and fighters were killed in the Uvira operation.

Peace accord in signed
Rebels say they may re-negotiate some points of the peace accord
Pro-government forces had seized the town less than a week after Rwanda withdrew more than 20,000 troops in line with the peace accord.

Rwanda has warned it is ready to send its troops back into eastern DRC to defend its border.

It has also accused the UN Security Council of a "conspiracy of silence" for failing to put the blame for renewed fighting on the Kabila government.

The council has warned that the renewed violence could destabilise the region and threaten neighbouring Rwanda and Burundi.

The UN food agency is also warning of a humanitarian catastrophe in the area. The war in the DRC began in 1998 when Uganda and Rwanda backed separate rebel armies both trying to topple the Kinshasa government.

The government has been propped up by Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia.

It is estimated that more than two million people have died, most from starvation and hunger.

The BBC's Bob Berry
"Most of the fighting has been taking place in the east of the country"
The BBC's Helen Vesperini
"It is becoming more difficult to be optimistic about stability in this region"
The BBC's Ishbel Matheson in Goma
"Only a permanent peace deal will put an end to the (looting and plundering)"

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See also:

18 Oct 02 | Africa
07 Jun 01 | Africa
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