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Friday, December 18, 1998 Published at 11:17 GMT

World: Africa

Africa summit ends in deadlock

The number of belligerents in the Congolese conflict is making progress difficult

A summit of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) aimed at halting the fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo ended late on Thursday night without any substantive results.

As the summit in Burkina Faso broke up a day early, the OAU said it would meet again in 10 days time in the Zambian capital, Lusaka.

OAU Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim told a news conference that defence and foreign ministers would meet on 27 December and heads of state the following day.

"It is hoped that at that date the ceasefire will be finalised," he said.

At least seven countries are involved in the Congolese conflict and the OAU has said the war would have disastrous consequences for the whole continent if it was not stopped.

Parties fighting in the conflict were presented with a peace plan at the summit in the Burkinese capital, Ouagadougou, this week.

Among the recommendations were:

  • an immediate cease-fire
  • respect of national sovereignty
  • withdrawal of foreign troops
  • need to address security concerns in Congo and neighbouring states
  • need for "internal political dialogue" in Congo.

However, Congolese President Laurent Kabila has repeatedly refused to talk to his country's rebels and rejected any discussion with them at the OAU summit this week.

The African leaders are now hopeful that talks can be held in Lusaka, with President Kabila and the rebels communicating with each other through mediators.

Neighbourly intervention

The rebels are backed by Rwanda and Uganda, who were also President Kabila's allies in the civil war that saw him topple late dictator Mobutu Sese Seko in May 1997.

President Kabila wants all foreign troops to withdraw before agreeing to a ceasefire.

Rwanda and Uganda however, say the president must understand their security concerns.

They say the also want guarantees from Kabila that there would be no witchhunt against Tutsis and other supporters of the rebellion in the east of the country.

Other African conflicts were also on the agenda at the summit in Burkina Faso, including the border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

But no progress was reported here, either, with both countries continuing to blame each other for the hostilities.

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