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Thursday, 18 January, 2001, 19:18 GMT
Summit silent for Kabila
Yaounde
Security has been tight at the summit
A minute's silence has been observed for President Laurent Kabila at the Franco-African summit currently meeting in Yaounde, Cameroon.

Togolese President Gnassingbe Eyadema asked everyone at the opening ceremony to be silent "in memory of our dear brother Laurent Kabila".

The statement at the summit was made before the Congolese Government admitted Laurent Kabila was actually dead.

There had been confusion over whether or not Tuesday's attack on Mr Kabila had been fatal because of contradictory reports.

Appeal

In his speech to the summit, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan re-affirmed the determination of the United Nations to contribute to the peaceful settlement of the conflict in the DR Congo.

Cameroon
Mr Annan also appealed urgently to all the parties involved in the war to direct their efforts towards the same end.

Mr Annan said African leaders had to show that they were facing up to their problems, and thus were worthy of international help.

Earlier Togolese Foreign Minister Koffi Panou said Congo would become the main topic of the summit and that leaders would take initiatives on the Congo.

Absentees

However, many of the key players are not at the summit.

President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, a staunch Kabila ally, departed early to return home.

Another ally, Namibian President Sam Nujoma, is in Yaounde, but a third, Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, will be represented by an envoy.

President Mugabe
President Mugabe: Returned to Zimbabwe
Uganda and Rwanda - who back rebels opposed to Kabila - have stayed away from the summit.

President Kabila's near neighbour in Congo-Brazzaville, President Denis Sassou-Nguesso, decided not to attend the summit after news of the shooting.

Arriving for the summit, French President Jacques Chirac said it was now up to the people of Congo to steer their country out of its troubles.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is also in Cameroon.

France, a former colonial power in Africa, had planned to use the two-day gathering to highlight its claim to have modernised its African policy, abandoning its past interventionism and allegedly corrupt ties with African leaders.

Turnout down

Only 25 African heads of state are now attending the summit, which takes place every two years.

President Paul Biya has spent approximately $12m to prepare for the summit and was anxiously greeting those heads of state that have arrived.

Our correspondent in Cameroon Francis Ngwa Niba says that security has been tightened around the capital since the news from Kinshasa, with random searches of roadside pedestrians.

When the news broke on Tuesday that President Kabila had been shot, it was reported to have been greeted with stunned silence among the delegates, who then hurriedly left a gala dinner.

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See also:

12 Jan 01 | Europe
Mitterrand son declares innocence
18 Jan 01 | Africa
Mugabe shores up Congo position
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