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DR Congo’s M23 rebels arrive for peace talks

Rebels are meeting with the Congolese government in Uganda for peace talks – in a bid to end the long-running conflict that has displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

Francois Rucogoza, leader of the delegation of Congolese M23 rebels
Francois Rucogoza, leader of the delegation of Congolese M23 rebels
Image: Rebecca Vassie/AP/Press Association Images

THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC of Congo’s M23 rebels arrived in the Ugandan capital Friday to resume peace talks with the Congolese government, officials said.

“The delegation has now arrived in Kampala,” said M23 delegation spokesman Bertrand Bisimwa. “We are ready and are waiting for the programme for the negotiation from the mediator.”

A Congolese government delegation had already arrived in Uganda, although there was no clear indication of when talks would resume.

The rebels, army mutineers largely from the ethnic Tutsi community, staged a lightning advance in November through DR Congo’s mineral-rich and chronically unstable east, raising fears of a widespread conflict and humanitarian emergency.

Although they were persuaded to withdraw from the key eastern city of Goma after a 12-day occupation, they still control large stretches of territory.

Almost two weeks of talks in December ended without even an agreement on the agenda for the negotiations, with the rebels issuing a raft of demands, including a call for major political reform for the war-weary region.

Uganda is hosting the talks, despite accusations that it – alongside Rwanda – have backed the fighters, claims that both countries have strongly denied.

Ugandan defence ministry spokesman Paddy Ankunda confirmed the government delegation had arrived, and said it was possible talks could start on Saturday.

“Hopefully we should see some serious business tomorrow,” Ankunda said.

The talks are the latest in several bids to end a long-running conflict that has forced hundreds of thousands of people in war-torn eastern DR Congo from their homes.

DR Congo’s east, which borders Rwanda and Uganda, was the cradle of back-to-back wars that drew in much of the region from 1996 to 2003. They were fought largely over its vast wealth of gold, coltan and cassiterite, key components in electronic goods.

- © AFP, 2012

Read: Britain suspends aid to Rwanda over DR Congo rebel support

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