Southern African News Features                                           SANF 09 No 18, August 2009
African leaders call for peace in the Great Lakes region
by Patson Phiri

African leaders attending a regional conference in Lusaka, Zambia have called for peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the rest of the Great Lakes region.

The 3rd Ordinary International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) has tasked the DRC to urgently convene an extraordinary summit on the situation in the country, according to the final communiqué of the conference held in early August.

Zambian Foreign Affairs Minister Kabinga Pande, who read the communiqué on behalf of the conference, said the DRC summit will discuss a comprehensive report by the Facilitators of the peace talks.

The Great Lakes region comprises countries that share Lakes Kivu, Albert, Edward, Victoria, Mweru and Tanganyika.

These countries are Angola, Burundi, the Central African Republic, the DRC, Kenya, the Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania, Sudan, Uganda and Zambia.

Other countries that have been co-opted into the Great Lakes region include Botswana, Egypt, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Somalia and Zimbabwe.

The former Presidents of Nigeria and Tanzania, Olusegun Obasanjo and Benjamin Mkapa, respectively, are meditating in the talks, which have been given a boost following a meeting between DRC and Rwandan Presidents Joseph Kabila and Paul Kagame, who both pledged to work together in resolving the conflict in eastern Congo.

Their meeting helped to heal a diplomatic rift created in 1996 when Rwandan forces invaded eastern Congo in pursuit of rebels who had taken refuge there after the 1994 genocide.

The DRC summit will also discuss the joint military operations against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) by the Central African Republic, Sudan and Uganda.

Despite the positive progress in talks led by former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano, LRA is yet to sign the Final Peace Agreement.

Heads of State and Government at the ICGLR urged member states to work collectively towards addressing the peace situation in the region through ratifying the Pact on Security, Stability and Development signed in Nairobi, Kenya in 2006.

The Pact seeks among other things to establish a special fund for member states and formulate a legal basis for preventing and resolving internal and international armed conflicts in the Great Lakes region.

Zambian President Rupiah Banda, who took over as chairperson of the ICGLR from Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, pledged to work for peace in the region.

Banda highlighted the role being played by the African Union, the Southern African Development Community and other regional organizations in promoting peace in Africa.

He said without regional cooperation Africa would find it rather difficult to address its challenges.

Following a resolution passed at the ICGLR that the Great Lakes Regions will meet after every two years, the leaders agreed that the next Summit set for 2011 will be held in Uganda.

The ICGLR aims to find solutions to the multiple and endemic problems facing the region.

The regional grouping also strives to create a conducive environment for security, stability, reconstruction and development mainly in the countries that are coming from war situations.

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