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Congo Talks Peace with Uganda, Rwanda

  • Raymond Thibodeaux

Foreign ministers from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Rwanda are meeting with officials from the European Union, the United Nations and the United States in southern Congo to try to quell mounting tension in the region.

This the fourth time since last year that top officials from Congo, Uganda and Rwanda have met to try to build peace in Africa's volatile Great Lakes region, in the aftermath of Congo's civil war.

On the agenda for this round of talks is reconciliation.

Earlier this month, leaders of Rwandan Hutu fighters in eastern Congo, known by the acronym FDLR, denounced the genocide that many of them are accused of taking part in, and pledged to give up their weapons, in return for permission to return home. But, so far, the Kigali government has been slow to accept their overtures of peace.

Also, Congo claims that Uganda is continuing to back militias in Congo's northeastern Ituri region, in order to keep its grip on the region's vast mineral wealth. Militia attacks in Ituri in the past few months have caused thousands of Congolese to flee their homes and farms, adding to an already dire humanitarian crisis.

Congo, seeking reparations from Uganda for its role in Congo's civil war, has taken its case to the U.N.-backed International Court of Justice. The hearings, which began Monday, are set to continue next week.

Phillip Wright, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in the Congolese capital of Kinshasa, says the talks are important because they provide a platform for the Great Lakes countries to air their differences.

"The countries involved - the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda - will be talking about a number of regional issues, he said. "These issues include the situation in Ituri and the return of members of FDLR to Rwanda, pursuant to the recent declaration that the FDLR made renouncing violence and condemning the genocide, and offering to return to Rwanda."

U.N. representative to Congo William Lacy Swing has joined the talks, along with Donald Yamamoto, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for African affairs.

Both Uganda and Rwanda took part in Congo's five-year civil war, which drew in six African armies, and killed more than three million people, according to U.N. estimates.

The last Great Lakes summit took place in Washington in February.

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