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Thursday, September 16, 1999 Published at 16:52 GMT 17:52 UK

World: Africa

Congo rebels reject Kabila talks offer

Rebels have not abandoned their goal of ousting President Kabila

The main rebel group in the Democratic Republic of Congo has turned down an invitation from President Laurent Kabila to take part in a national dialogue on reconciliation.

Battle for the heart of Africa
A spokesman for the Goma-based faction of the Congolese Rally for Democracy(RCD), Paul Musafiri, said it would not accept the proposal because the country did not belong to Mr Kabila.

The breakaway Kisangani-based faction of the RCD, led by Professor Ernest Wamba dia Wamba, has also refused to attend the proposed meeting.

President Kabila's invitation to the rebels was announced on Wednesday, and was rejected by the two factions barely 24 hours later.

Kabila must 'clean his house'

[ image: Ernest Wamba dia Wamba: Joined his rivals in rejecting the offer of talks]
Ernest Wamba dia Wamba: Joined his rivals in rejecting the offer of talks
Prof Wamba said President Kabila must "clean his house before receiving visitors".

He accused the Congolese government of continuing to arrest journalists and restrict free speech.

The holding of a national dialogue is a provision of the ceasefire accord signed in July in Lusaka intended to end the 13-month civil war in DR Congo.

Faction fighting

A disagreement between the two RCD factions - which do not recognise each other's legitimacy - kept them from signing the accord until the end of August.

[ image: President Kabila: Rebels do not see him as a legitimate leader]
President Kabila: Rebels do not see him as a legitimate leader
Fighting in Kisangani between the factions resulted in a battle involving Ugandan and Rwandan troops, which back different factions.

Government and rebels have continued to accuse each other of ceasefire violations.

The rival leaders are still arguing over who should represent them on a joint military commission which, in terms of the peace agreement, should oversee the disarmament process.

The rebels, who since last year have seized the eastern half of DR Congo, have not abandoned their original goal of ousting President Kabila from power.

(Click here to see a map of areas captured by the rebels)


According to the UN Refugee Agency, the UNHCR, the war has created 700,000 refugees and displaced thousands more.

The UNHCR has voiced concern about the destabilising effect of the movement of refugees, noting that some of those arriving in Tanzania and the Central African Republic are of a military background.

Rwanda, Uganda reconciliation

Rwanda and Uganda have meanwhile tried to resolve the differences between them which led their soldiers to confront each other in Kisangani.

Military officers from the two governments - which are traditional allies - have drawn up a report which was due to be presented to the Rwandan parliament on Thursday.

A Rwandan Government spokesman has said the approach taken by the joint committee was fair and the report should help resolve problems.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, has already appointed a new commander of operations in Kisangani and switched the headquarters of Ugandan units in the Democratic Republic of Congo from Kisangani to Gbadolite.

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