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Wednesday, June 23, 1999 Published at 09:15 GMT 10:15 UK


World: Africa

Congo rebels arrive for talks

Earlier talks have failed to secure peace

Rebels from the Democratic Republic of Congo have arrived in Zambia for preparatory talks on a ceasefire agreement due to be signed this weekend.

Zambian Foreign Minister Sipakeli Walubita confirmed that representatives of the two factions of the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD), based in Kisingani and Goma, were already in Lusaka.

Officials from Jean-Pierre Bemba's Movement for the Liberation of Congo had yet to arrive, he said.

The talks are aimed at laying the groundwork to a meeting of defence and foreign ministers later this week in Lusaka.

Ceasefire due

On Saturday, heads of state from central and southern Africa are due to sign the ceasefire document, which was drafted by Zambian President Frederick Chiluba and approved by heads of state at a meeting in Pretoria last week.

There are hopes that the summit will see the signing of a peace agreement aimed at ending the 10-month civil war that has ravaged DR Congo.

Observers believe the presence of the heads of state makes it more likely that a deal will be hammered out.

Previous attempts at a settlement have failed, with Congolese President Laurent Kabila refusing to talk to the rebels.

Kabila meets ally Mugabe


[ image: Mr Mugabe says much depends on preliminary talks]
Mr Mugabe says much depends on preliminary talks
It is still not clear whether the Congolese president will attend Saturday's summit. But on Tuesday, Mr Kabila met his Zimbabwean counterpart, Robert Mugabe, in connection with the proposed ceasefire.

Speaking to reporters after their meeting in Harare, Mr Mugabe said the success of the summit depended on whether the preliminary meetings of foreign and defence ministers opened the way for peace.

He said it was important that the ceasefire document should have some meaning.

Mr Mugabe has been backing the Congolese leader in his war with the rebels, who are supported by Uganda and Rwanda.

Rebel demands

The rebels have already set out their demands for agreeing to a ceasefire.

Speaking in Pretoria, the RCD leader, Emile Ilunga, said that for his rebels to stop fighting, the government would have to:

  • stop bombing civilian targets, release political prisoners
  • stop what he called genocide against ethnic Tutsis
  • agree to direct talks.

Mr Ilunga - who says rebel troops now control more than half of the country - said any ceasefire would have to be followed by a meeting involving the Kabila government, rebel forces, political opposition groups and other representatives.

Another rebel leader, Bizima Karaha of the Congolese Democratic Coalition, said that if Zimbabwean and Angolan forces withdrew, Mr Kabila would immediately flee Congo - and rebel forces would be in Kinshasa within a week.





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