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Congo rebels unhappy at government's wide talks invite
Mon Dec 8, 2008 4:24am EST
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By Andrew Cawthorne
NAIROBI (Reuters) - Eastern Congo rebels in Nairobi for U.N.-brokered peace talks with the government said on Monday they were not prepared to sit down with other insurgent groups.
The Democratic Republic of Congo government at the weekend invited around 20 other armed groups to participate in the talks, aimed at ending fighting in North Kivu province that has displaced a quarter of a million people since August.
But the delegation for General Laurent Nkunda's National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) said that was "impossible" and it was in Kenya only for direct talks.
"We cannot allow discussions with 20 other militias. Otherwise we would stay at home. We have not made this journey for nothing," CNDP foreign affairs spokesman Rene Abandi said.
"They can meet Mai Mai (pro-government militia), or whoever they want, in Nairobi, Kinshasa or New York. Just not at the same table where we are."
While that difference raised the prospect of the talks failing before they had even started, there was no sign of other groups arriving in Nairobi, and the rebel-government discussions were due to start under U.N. auspices on Monday afternoon.
They would be the first face-to-face talks between Nkunda's Tutsi rebels and President Joseph Kabila's government, although neither leader was coming to Kenya.
Diplomats have cautiously welcomed the meeting as a first step toward defusing tensions that have threatened to escalate into another regional war.
The CNDP declared a ceasefire after reaching the gates of the North Kivu provincial capital Goma in late October. It has been generally respected by both the rebels and the army, leading to more than a month of relative calm in North Kivu.
However, clashes continue between Nkunda's fighters, and local Mai Mai militia and Rwandan Hutu rebels, who roam a province rich in gold, diamonds, coltan and tin and who often support Kabila's weak and chaotic army.
ROOTS OF WAR
Congo's information minister, Lambert Mende, said on Sunday the meeting in Nairobi would include all those armed groups who signed up to an earlier January peace deal.
"We don't want to leave anyone out," he told Reuters.
The government wants the Nairobi talks to take place within the framework of that accord, known by the Swahili name for peace 'Amani'. But the rebels want fresh discussions.
Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula noted other peace processes Nairobi had hosted, like Somalia, took many months. Continued...
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