Saturday, December 13, 2008

DR Congo rebels 'stalling talks'

DR Congo rebels 'stalling talks'
Written by Reuters
Saturday, December 13, 2008 3:43:22 AM

Talks aimed at ending the conflict in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo are encountering serious difficulties, the UN mediator says. Olusegun Obasanjo said this was because Gen Laurent Nkunda's rebel negotiators lacked the authority to make decisions.

The talks, taking place in Kenya, had not collapsed but such indecision was limiting progress, he said. Meanwhile, Rwanda and DR Congo have denied accusations of using proxy rebel groups to fight a covert struggle. The allegations are made in a draft report for the UN, seen by the BBC.

It says Rwanda is supplying aid and child soldiers to Tutsi rebels and the Congolese army is collaborating with the Rwandan Hutu FDLR militia, some of whose leaders were involved in the Rwandan genocide 14 years ago.

Rebel leader General Laurent Nkunda says he is protecting his Congolese Tutsi community from attack by leaders of the Rwanda genocide, but critics say the conflict is about raw power and control of mineral resources.

Recent fighting in eastern DR Congo has displaced some 250,000 people since August. Both government and rebel forces have been accused of raping, mutilating and killing civilians.

Obasanjo said Gen Nkunda's CNDP rebels had not been given enough power to make concessions.

"Either they give the people they have sent here the delegation, the power to make decisions or they send people who they will give such power to," he told journalists in Nairobi.

He also criticised them for "trying to broaden the negotiations to cover the whole of the DRC".

Obasanjo said this was in contrast to the delegation from the Congolese government, who were "more flexible".

"They are empowered to take decision[s] and we have seen them taking decisions on the ground," he said.

Direct talks with the Congolese government was a key CNDP demand.

A ceasefire negotiated by Obasanjo in November has halted battles with government troops, but rebels have continued attacking Congolese and Rwandan militia allies of the government.

In a draft report, the UN alleges the Rwandan authorities have supplied Gen Nkunda's forces with military equipment, child soldiers, the use of Rwandan banks, and allowed the rebels to launch attacks from Rwandan territory on the Congolese army.

But Rwandan's foreign minister told the BBC's World Today programme that Rwanda was not supporting General Nkunda.

"Rwanda and the CNDP of Laurent Nkunda do not have links, neither does the government or the military have links with them, except that they, the people on their side speak [Kinya]Rwandan but that is only a historic link it has nothing to do with the current link," Rosemary Kobusingye Museminari said.

She said that even if rebels were being recruited from within Rwanda, this was not being done with the support of her government.

"Laurent Nkunda could recruit from Kenya, he could recruit from Uganda, he could recruit from Europe, he could recruit from anywhere else, that wouldn't mean that the [Rwandan] government is sanctioning that."

In turn, DR Congo's communications minister denied working with the FDLR, saying no responsible government would co-operate with an armed group killing their own people.

"Those people are still killing our people, Congolese people, they are really destroying our environment there. We cannot ever support them," Lambert Omalanga Menda told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

The final report is being presented to the Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council in the next few days.

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