Rebel demands stall Kivu peace talks

UN mediator Olusegun Obasanjo said that negotiations between the Congolese government and Laurent NKunda's CNDP in Nairobi were not making any progress because rebel negotiators had to refer to their superiors constantly.


Reuters - Talks to end conflict in eastern Congo are being delayed because rebel negotiators lack authority to make decisions, the mediator said on Wednesday.

Olusegun Obasanjo, the U.N. special envoy for the conflict, said the talks in Kenya were also being hampered by the rebel side's attempts to broaden their scope to cover the whole of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The former Nigerian president said negotiations had not collapsed but he was sending a team to meet Tutsi rebel leader Laurent Nkunda in Congo to try to solve the problems.

Nkunda's National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) has seized large tracts of North Kivu province since September. It declared a ceasefire shortly before reaching the provincial capital Goma and called for direct talks.

President Joseph Kabila's government initially resisted fresh negotiations, saying that previous peace processes should be respected, but eventually agreed to sit down with the rebels.

"We cannot move because at every stage we are told by CNDP that they have to refer to their political core and we are held up for hours on end," Obasanjo told journalists on Wednesday.

The Nairobi meetings are the first face-to-face talks since Nkunda launched his rebellion in 2004, initially to protect fellow Tutsis in eastern Congo from attacks by Rwandan Hutu rebels who crossed into Congo after the 1994 genocide.

Broader rebellion

Having routed Kabila's weak and chaotic army across North Kivu in weeks of fighting, Nkunda now talks of a broader rebellion and has threatened to march on the distant capital, Kinshasa.

When asked if the talks had collapsed, Obasanjo said: "No, we remain engaged." But he complained that the rebels in Nairobi had tried to broaden the scope of the talks, beyond the east.

"CNDP want a global and blanket cover of the DRC. Our mandate does not cover that," he said, adding that he was dispatching a team to clarify issues with Nkunda on Thursday.

The rebels had previously complained at the government's moves to open the talks to other armed groups in Congo's east.

The Nairobi talks are the latest attempt to end violence that stems from Rwanda's genocide, has erupted into two full-scale wars and continues despite successful elections in 2006 and the world's biggest U.N. peacekeeping mission.

About 250,000 people have been displaced in fighting since the end of August alone. Over five million have died in the humanitarian disaster since the beginning of the 1998-2003 war, which sucked in six neighbouring countries.

The U.N. mission, already the world body's largest ever at 17,000-strong, is over-stretched and has repeatedly called for the EU to send a force to stabilise the situation while it waits for 3,000 reinforcements to arrive.

Belgium said on Wednesday it was confident that the EU would send a mission but countries are divided, with nations like Britain pushing instead for greater support for U.N. peacekeepers.

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