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Sunday, 13 January, 2002, 15:36 GMT
Kabila seeks peace at SADC summit
Joseph Kabila (left) and Robert Mugabe (right) in Malawi
DR Congo and Zimbabwe are expected to top the agenda
President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo, has arrived in Malawi ahead of a Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit, saying he hoped progress could be made to resolve the civil war in his country.

The summit is due to begin in Blantyre on Monday and the assembled leaders of the 14 SADC states will be joined by the presidents of Rwanda and Uganda, because they both have troops still in the Congo.

My hopes are that we'll make headway, especially with the two presidents who are coming from Rwanda and Uganda

Joseph Kabila
At first Mr Kabila had been unhappy about the decision to invite Rwanda and Uganda to the meeting, regarding them as foreign aggressors, but now he concedes their presence might be helpful.

The Congo conflict is the main business of the meeting, but high on the agenda will also be the deepening crisis in Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe is desperately seeking to maintain his grip on power.

Rebels invited

The Congo war has sucked in neighbouring countries from Uganda to Namibia and threatened to destabilise the whole region and for the moment, the peace process seems to have got stuck.

Some foreign troops have pulled out, but not yet all and Mr Kabila is keen to resolve the situation.

"My hopes are that we'll make headway, especially with the two presidents who are coming from Rwanda and Uganda. Both have got troops in the Congo, so let's wait and see, let's keep our fingers crossed," he said upon arrival in Malawi.

Zimbabwe war veterans
There are fears that Zimbabwe is spiralling out of control

Also in Blantyre are the leaders of the main rebel groups fighting Mr Kabila's government - Jean-Pierre Bemba of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) and Adose Onusumba of the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD).

It is not clear whether they and the president will be meeting face to face.

Nonetheless they are all expected to take part in a Meeting of National Dialogue, scheduled to take place in South Africa later this month, and some of the groundwork for that meeting is likely to take place in Blantyre.

Zimbabwe crisis

A more immediate problem is Zimbabwe's domestic crisis.

"On the face of it, Zimbabwe might be a peripheral matter, but in effect it is the most pressing issue for SADC at the moment," said one senior African diplomat at the summit.

Mr Mugabe will be attending the meeting, but officials gathered in Blantyre have voiced fear that they may not be able do much to resolve the situation.

"Zimbabwe is a sovereign state. The problem there is an internal problem," Malawian Foreign Minister Lilian Patel said.

See also:

12 Jan 02 | Africa
Zimbabwe looms over SADC meeting
18 Dec 01 | Africa
Neighbours back Mugabe
12 Aug 01 | Africa
Packed agenda for SADC leaders
24 Nov 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Malawi
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