11 December 2008 Talks between the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and a main rebel group are continuing to make headway, according to the top United Nations envoy tasked with helping to resolve the conflict that has engulfed the east of the vast African nation.
The dialogue in Nairobi, Kenya, which began earlier this week, resumed today, but will adjourn until next week, Olusegun Obasanjo, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy and former Nigerian president, announced today.
He is mediating the talks between the Government and the National Congress in Defense of the People (CNDP), with Benjamin Mkapa, the former president of Tanzania who is representing the African UnionI am pleased to note that they are making steady progress towards agreement on the ground rules for substantive discussions (AU) and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR).
“I am pleased to note that they are making steady progress towards agreement on the ground rules for substantive discussions,” Mr. Obasanjo said, noting that the sides have shown “goodwill” during the talks so far.
Also today, a high-level delegation was dispatched by the two envoys to meet renegade general Laurent Nkunda, who heads the CNDP, to discuss issues that have slowed steps forward and have reported receiving a positive response.
Yesterday, the former Nigerian leader warned that an urgent resolution was needed to move the talks forward.
The CNDP is insisting on discussions on the obstacles facing the entire DRC, not just the conflict and humanitarian situation in the east, he said. “Without prejudice to the rights and wrongs of this demand,” Mr. Obasanjo said that both he and Mr. Mkapa believe this goes “beyond the mandate given to us” last month by the Great Lakes Region, the AU and the UN.
Further, progress in the dialogue has been slowed down because the decision-making powers of the CNDP delegation have been curtailed by the militia’s leadership, he noted.
Escalating conflict between Government forces (FARDC) and the CNDP has uprooted an estimated 250,000 people since late August, mainly in North Kivu province, which borders Rwanda and Uganda. Other armed groups, including the Mai Mai, have also been involved in deadly clashes, some of which have been along ethnic lines.
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