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Tuesday, 16 October, 2001, 07:53 GMT 08:53 UK
DR Congo talks hit trouble
A Congolese rebel
The ceasefire should mean rebels join the national army

Peace talks in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa aimed at ending three years of war in the Democratic Republic of Congo have run into difficulties.

Rwanda-backed rebels rejected a call to hold early elections before a transitional government is set up.

The rejection follows a televised speech by Congolese President Joseph Kabila on Sunday, in which he called for elections to be held as soon as possible.

But representatives of the Congolese Rally for Democracy say the poll must not be organised by the current government in Kinshasa.

The meeting in Addis Ababa is being attended by about 60 delegates rather than the more than 300 originally envisaged.

It should have started two years ago, 45 days after the signing of the peace agreement in Lusaka in 1999.

But little or nothing was achieved until after the murder of Congolese President Laurent Kabila at the beginning of this year.

Fragmented opposition

With the DR Congo now led by his son, Joseph, things are moving a little faster.

UN soldiers in DR Congo
A UN mission oversees a shaky ceasefire

The military part of the agreement is being implemented, and the planned National Dialogue is about to start.

But the delays have thrown up new problems.

The fragmented civilian opposition has fragmented still further, with new groups asking for invitations all the time.

Much of the active fighting is now being done by local militias - the Mai Mai - who were not on the original invitation list, and will now clearly have to be included.

Unaffordable

And, on a more practical level, it has all taken so long that the organisers are running out of money.

There is no way they can afford to keep 300-400 delegates in Addis Ababa for the 45-day meeting which was originally planned.

So they are starting with a much smaller group, which is expected to meet for a few days to decide procedural matters, and set a later date for the full session.

This could well be moved to South Africa, since the government there has generously offered to host the meeting if it has to be cut short in Addis Ababa through lack of funds.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Elizabeth Blunt
"The leaders of the two main rebel groups did not turn up"
See also:

15 Oct 01 | African
Should DR Congo be split up?
30 Sep 01 | Africa
DR Congo ceasefire under threat
27 Sep 01 | Africa
DR Congo peace talks end early
17 Jul 01 | Africa
UN praises Congo advances
24 Jul 01 | Africa
Congo rejects UN co-ordinator
02 Sep 01 | Africa
Annan preaches peace in DR Congo
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