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Great Lakes security talks make little progress

Ministers from Africa’s Great Lakes region made little headway in two days of talks on security overshadowed by growing violence and mutual mistrust.

Foreign and defence ministers from Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) appealed for United Nations peacekeepers to intensify efforts to stamp out militias plaguing eastern DRC.

Officials who took part in the closed-door meetings, which ended on Monday, said they were largely bad tempered, with DRC accusing Tutsi-led Rwanda of backing the DRC’s rebel Tutsi general Laurent Nkunda.

The DRC accused Rwanda of sending demobilised troops to join Nkunda’s men, who have clashed with DRC government troops in heavy fighting over the past few weeks, the officials said.

Addressing journalists after the talks ended, Rwandan Foreign Minister Charles Murigande denied the allegations.

”If a demobilised Rwandan decides to go DRC to do whatever he wishes, it is the responsibility of the DRC government to arrest him,” Murigande said.

His Congolese counterpart, Mbusa Nyamwisi, said DRC’s military was determined to pacify the east.

”We will not only fight Nkunda’s forces, we will fight every destabilising force in the region,” he told reporters.

A joint communiqué issued after the meeting called on UN peacekeepers ”to intensify efforts” towards working with DRC forces to eliminate ”negative forces” in the lawless east.

All parties also ”expressed concern about deteriorating security condition … in particular the destabilising role of former general Laurent Nkunda and ex-FAR [interahamwe rebels]”.

Until a UN-mediated ceasefire last week, eastern DRC’s North Kivu province was the scene of two weeks of battles between the Congolese army and fighters loyal to Nkunda, who has led a three-year rebellion against the central government.

UN agencies say the area, where 300 000 people have been forced from their homes since November, faces a humanitarian emergency as malnutrition rises among the displaced civilians. — Reuters

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