Congo rebels, government officials in Kenya for peace talks

December 8th, 2008 - 5:29 pm ICT by IANS  

Nairobi, Dec 8 (DPA) Congolese rebels and government officials were in the Kenyan capital Nairobi Monday for talks aimed at cementing a ceasefire in eastern Congo.The talks mark the first direct conversation between the government and Tutsi rebel group the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), which launched a major advance in October.

The CNDP had threatened to pull out of the talks after the Congo government invited various other militia to take part, but early Monday it looked like the meeting would go ahead.

“We are here in Nairobi and the talks will begin this afternoon,” Bertrand Bisimwa, a spokesman for the CNDP, told DPA.

It was not clear if other armed groups were taking part in the talks.

Until now, the government has refused to meet Laurent Nkunda’s CNDP. However, UN peace envoy and former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo recently met both parties and persuaded them to sit down at the table.

Nkunda called a ceasefire and pulled his troops back from the front lines in mid-November after meeting Obasanjo, but clashes have continued with government forces and pro-government Mai Mai militia.

Neither Nkunda nor Congolese President Joseph Kabila are expected to attend the meeting.

Nkunda says he is fighting to protect Tutsis from Hutu militia who fled to the DR Congo after Tutsi forces seized power in Rwanda.

The armed Hutu groups were implicated in the 1994 massacres in Rwanda, when 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed.

Well over 250,000 civilians have been displaced in the east of the Congo since August as a result of the renewed clashes, aid agencies say.

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