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Saturday, 11 December, 1999, 09:01 GMT
DR Congo defiant over conflict

Holbrooke: "We have to get it right this time around"

The Democratic Republic of Congo has delivered a message of defiance to rebels and their allies as it prepares to meet the American ambassador to the United Nations, Richard Holbrooke.

Battle for the heart of Africa
Mr Holbrooke and the American Secretary of State for Africa, Susan Rice, are meeting Congolese officials on Saturday to discuss ways of ending the civil war.

During the Rwandan leg of his tour, Mr Holbrooke said Washington would not support a peacekeeping mission in DR Congo if warring parties there failed to agree on a mediator.

But Congolese Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Yerodia rejected Mr Holbrooke's remarks that all sides in the conflict had violated the ceasefire.

Everything must start from the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the troops of aggression
Abdoulaye Yerodia
He said peace would not be accomplished as long as the rebels' allies - Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi - remained on Congolese territory.

"It is absurd", Mr Yerodia said. "Is he saying that the Congolese armed forces have to keep their arms folded while the aggressors advance and pillage the country's resources?"

On Friday, Mr Holbrooke held "complex and detailed" talks with Congolese rebels and their allies in Uganda.

New doctrine

The United States has done its best to stay out of African conflicts since the embarrassing failure of the American-led UN humanitarian mission to Somalia in 1992.

It has taken steps to train African peacekeeping forces and, under President Clinton who made a high-profile tour of Africa two years ago, urged Africans to solve their problems themselves.

The US wants Africans to honour their own commitments
But within months of the ousting of the late President Mobutu of Zaire in May 1997, two wars had broken out among the very allies who had engineered the dictator's downfall.

In Rwanda, Mr Holbrooke held talks with the leadership while also visiting a genocide memorial site and two humanitarian projects backed by the United Nations.

For Washington, the immediate objectives for peace in the Congo are clear: the government and rebels need to agree as soon as possible on a facilitator to instigate a national dialogue.

The newly-arrived UN liaison teams must be given free access to all parts of the country to prepare the ground for a bigger UN operation next year.

And the joint military commission, made up of representatives of the countries and rebel movements involved in the conflict, has to be more aggressive in monitoring the current ceasefire and addressing violations.

Economic development

President Clinton regards a peaceful and co-operative Congo as central to his efforts to encourage an African economic revival.

Mr Holbrooke, the Clinton administration's chief diplomatic troubleshooter, explained why he had been sent to try to shore up peace in Congo.

"These wars, if they are left unchecked, leave the rest of the world with a monumental bill for refugee relief, reconstruction, and resettlement. That money ought to go to economic development."

Mr Holbrooke insisted that his tour did not mark a change of policy. He said he was simply trying to get Africans to live up to their own commitments.

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See also:
09 Dec 99 |  Africa
Speed up Congo peace - Holbrooke
07 Dec 99 |  Africa
Fate of Zimbabwe's troops in balance
06 Dec 99 |  Africa
US issues stark DR Congo warning
03 Dec 99 |  Africa
Congo rebels lose northern town
16 Nov 99 |  Africa
OAU monitors enter DR Congo
08 Jul 99 |  Africa
Congo peace plan: the main points

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