Leaders of countries in Africa's Great Lakes region have formally hailed the arrest of Congolese rebel leader Laurent Nkunda and indicated that Lord's Resistance Army chief Joseph Kony is the next target. A meeting of the international conference on the Great Lakes region is held on the eve of the African Union summit in Addis Ababa.
A statement issued after a brief mini-summit of 11 Great Lakes countries describes General Nkunda's arrest as a positive contribution to regional peace. It also noted with satisfaction the thawing of relations between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the exchange of ambassadors between Kigali and Kinshasa.
Briefing reporters after the closed session, Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula said Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni had briefed the group on progress in the search for what he called other negative forces, including LRA leader Joseph Kony. "President Museveni gave the summit a comprehensive brief on the operations that are ongoing from joint forces from Uganda, Congo, Sudan and Central African Republic to scuttle and possibly arrest Joseph Kony and his LRA forces. The summit appreciated the fact that the LRA are now scattered and on the run and hopefully Joseph Kony will be apprehended and brought to justice," he said.
One of the facilitators working on the DRC crisis, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo told reporters he has been assured General Nkunda is alive and in good condition in Rwanda. "Nkunda is in the good hands of the Rwandan authorities. He is well. We have indirectly made contact with him and we are satisfied with the condition in which he is," he said.
In a brief speech to the summit, the outgoing African Union Chairman, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete said he was pleased with the progress toward peace in the eastern Congo. But expressed regret that his dream of goal settling the conflict during his year in office had not been realized. "Together we did what was humanly possible to try and accomplish this mission. But then I am reminded that even Almighty's messages did not accomplish all, and passed on their tasks to their successors," he said.
Eleven countries took part in the two-hour meeting - Angola, Burundi, the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), the DRC, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia,
The meeting had originally been planned as part of peace talks between the Congolese government and General Nkunda's rebels. But those plans were upended when the renegade Tutsi leader was taken into custody January 20th during a joint Rwanda/DRC military operation against rebels on their Great Lakes border.