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UN Envoy Obasanjo Continues Congo Mediation Trip


Diplomatic efforts continue to end the violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The United Nations mediator is due to meet Friday with Congolese rebels and travel to Rwanda after meeting Thursday with Congolese officials in Kinshasa.

United Nations mediator Olusegun Obasanjo's visit to Kinshasa, Goma and Kigali is aimed at ending the violence that has killed hundreds of people and displaced one-quarter million in the past four months.

The former Nigerian president is seeking to build on an agreement signed last month by Rwandan and Congolese defense ministers to disarm a Rwandan Hutu militia that has been clashing with forces of Congolese rebel leader Laurent Nkunda.

The mission comes as direct talks began between the rebels and the Congolese government in Kenya.

In an interview with VOA Swahili Service Nkunda expressed optimism over the talks. "There is a will. There is a good will and I think through the good will and talks we can get solutions," he said.

The diplomatic efforts intensified late last year after Nkunda's troops clashed with Congolese government forces and Rwandan Hutu militia. The militia, which opposed the government in Kigali, entered eastern Congo after participating in the Rwandan genocide of ethnic Tutsis in 1994.

Humanitarian groups say they are struggling to deliver aid to thousands of civilians displaced by the violence.

The United Nations Mission to Congo has deployed 17,000 peacekeepers across the vast country but only a fraction of these are in the zone of conflict.

Belgium and France have proposed sending several thousand European Union peacekeepers to bolster the U.N. forces but Britain and Germany say other measures should be tried first.

Nkunda says sending more foreign troops is not the solution. "I tell them to bring what they can to help us for talks, not for war," he said. "Because when I hear them bringing troops instead of bringing negotiations and maybe a help in ideas for raising our economy, I can say let the international community help us to have a good leadership."

Nkunda ended a tenuous cease-fire in September accusing Congolese government troops of attacking ethnic Tutsi's in eastern Congo and charging the U.N. Mission with a lack of impartiality, charges which were rejected.

The Congolese government accuses Rwanda of supporting the Nkunda rebels while Rwanda accuses Congo of supporting the Rwanda militias. Both governments deny the accusations.

International observers say measures are needed to build mutual trust and allow for the disarmament of the various armed groups before a durable peace can be established.

But the Congolese government's lack of control over the region thousands of kilometers from Kinshasa and the continuing exploitation of its natural resources by the combatants are major obstacles.

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