DR Congo rivals to meet in Nairobi
Eastern rebels to discuss unilateral ceasefire with government representatives.
Last Modified: 08 Dec 2008 08:27 GMT
The rebel CNDP declared a unilateral truce in October as it was poised to move in to Goma [EPA]

Representatives of the rebel forces that have been battling the army in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo are due to meet members of the Kinshasa government in Kenya.

The talks on Monday were designed to to formalise a ceasefire between the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) and the government.

However, even before the meeting began a potential sticking point emerged as the CNDP insisted that it would only take part in direct negotiations with Kinshasa, rather than a wide-ranging peace process including other armed groups.

"Our position is very clear. We will negotiate with the government and no one else," Bertrand Bisimwa, a CNDP spopkesman, told the Reuters news agency from Nairobi.

"The government can negotiate with whomever it wants. But any attempt to impose Amani on us will fail," he said, referring to the UN-sponsored programme launched in January in an attempt to end the simmering conflict in the east of the country.

It was intended to bring all the combatants in the North and South Kivu regions together for talks.

Lambert Mende, the government communications minister, said that about 20 other groups had been invited and criticised the CNDP for threatening to pull out its delegation.
"It's their problem if they don't want peace. They'll be held accountable for their acts," he said.

Leaders missing

Laurent Nkunda, the renegade general who leads the CNDP, and Joesph Kabila, DR Congo's president were not expected to attend the meeting in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital.

Nkunda declared a unilateral ceasefire in late October when his fighters were on the verge of overrunning the provincial capital, Goma.

Clashes have continued between the CNDP and local Mai Mai militia and Rwandan Hutu rebels despite the ceasefire.

Representatives of the pro-government Mai-Mai have threatened to withdraw from the peace process if the CNDP are granted separate talks with the government.

 "To proceed in this way is to incite us to quit the Amani  programme, the government should not forget this," Mai Mai leaders said in a statement given to the AFP news agency.

"We are not a negligible group, we have arms."

Two years of sporadic fighting between Nkunda's fighters and government soldiers supported by local militiamen have forced nearly one million people to flee their homes in North Kivu.

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