Congo, Rwanda agree to attend summit on Congo violence


Nairobi : The Congolese and Rwandan presidents have agreed to attend a regional summit aimed at resolving the conflict in the east of Congo, reports said Saturday.

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The European Union (EU)’s aid commissioner Louis Michel, who held talks with both leaders, told the BBC that Joseph Kabila and Paul Kagame had agreed to meet at a summit involving the African Union and other African leaders.

Top US envoy for Africa Jendayi Frazer was in Congo, while French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband were also due to visit Congo and Rwanda.

One possible venue for the meeting is Kenyan capital Nairobi.

Michel flew into Congo Thursday in an attempt to defuse the conflict between Tutsi rebels and government forces, which blew up into four days of full-scale fighting earlier this week.

Fighting raged for four days and UN peacekeepers joined the battle, pounding rebel Tutsi General Laurent Nkunda’s National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) with helicopter gunships.

UN peacekeepers were, however, stretched to the limit by the fighting and the UN’s top envoy in Congo, Alan Doss, has called for more troops to add to the 17,000 contingent already in the sprawling Central African nation.

Nkunda Wednesday evening called a ceasefire as his troops were on the verge of taking the major city of Goma, the capital of North Kivu province.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Friday urged Nkunda to stick to the ceasefire and said the situation was “very threatening.”

The ceasefire continued to hold Saturday, but fears were growing for the fate of the tens of thousands who fled the rebel advance.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR said the situation was “desperate.”

According to UNCHR, rebel forces forcibly emptied refugee camps and burned them to the ground during their advance on Goma.

The situation in Goma is volatile, with Congolese troops who fled the rebel advance seemingly out of control. There have been repeated reports that soldiers are killing, raping and looting in Goma.

Many aid agencies evacuated their staff from Goma on Wednesday as the rebels approached, but some now plan to take advantage of the ceasefire to return.

Aid workers said Friday that some displaced people were attempting to leave Goma and return to their home villages.

Western diplomats feel that the only way to resolve the conflict is to bring Rwanda and the DR Congo together at the table.

Congo has accused Rwanda of backing Nkunda and there were some reports of cross-border firing during the fighting. Nkunda says he is fighting to protect Tutsis from armed Hutu groups.

Many Hutus fled to Congo after the 1994 massacres in Rwanda when Hutu militants killed an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in the space of a few months.

The CNDP and other groups in January signed peace accords designed to end sporadic clashes that occurred during 2007, four years after a war that began in 1998 officially ended.

But the CNDP and government soldiers have been involved in repeated clashes in the eastern provinces of North and South Kivu since late August.

The UN said about 250,000 civilians have fled the fighting since August, bringing the number of refugees in North Kivu to almost one million.

More than five million people are estimated to have died as a result of the 1998-2003 war in the resource-rich nation, most of them from hunger and disease.

The conflict is often referred to as the African World War, owing to the large number of different armed forces involved.