Monday marks the start of an inter-Congolese national dialogue aimed at ending three years of civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. But as reports even before they have started show, the talks are already in jeopardy because of a lack of funding.
Just about every group that has a role in Congolese life is supposed to participate in the dialogue that is due to start Monday. There are representatives of the Congolese government, various political parties, rebel groups and civic groups.
To ensure a neutral setting, the dialogue is taking place, not in Congo, but in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. The participants have 45 days to chart a new political future for Africa's third largest country.
The dialogue is a key part of a peace plan for Congo that was signed in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, in 1999. Participants will draft a new constitution for Congo. They will also draw up plans for a transitional government to prepare Congo for democratic elections, only the second in the country's history.
Moise Nyarugabo of the the Congolese rebel group that controls the largest amount of territory, RCD Goma (Rassemblement Congolais pour la democratie), said the dialogue must be as inclusive as possible. "We're going to have that transitional government through negotiations. This is why we are trying to have many people from different groups - from different belligerents, political parties and the civil society," he said. "We need to have all of them together so that we can come up with decisions that can help put an end to the war and start the reconstruction of the country."
However, questions are arising about how many people will actually be able to participate in the dialogue.
So far donor pledges have fallen far short of the $4-5 million needed to host over 300 Congolese delegates in Addis Ababa. That means not all the delegates will be at Monday's talks. Instead, around 70 participants will be invited for the first week. At the end of the week, these delegates will decide whether the meeting can be enlarged.
Congo's government is already saying the dialogue should be postponed because not everyone will be represented. It wants Monday's gathering to be just a preliminary meeting.
Meanwhile, a coalition of non-governmental organizations in Kinshasa is calling for the talks to be relocated to Cape Town. One of the major attractions of this move is that money should not be as much of a problem. The South African government has reportedly offered to contribute 50 percent of the costs of the meeting.