African leaders began gathering in Algiers on Saturday ahead of a summit called to "evaluate" the peace process in the volatile Democratic Republic of Congo.
DRC President Laurent Kabila will join six other heads of state, including South Africa's Thabo Mbeki and Nigeria's Olusegun Obasanjo, at the Club des Pins luxury resort outside Algiers on Sunday to discuss ways to bring about a durable peace in the DRC.
The complex and costly conflict that broke out in August 1998 has drawn in Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia on Kabila's side, against rebels backed by Uganda and Rwanda, but has eluded resolution despite intensive diplomatic efforts and a 1999 peace accord.
The leaders are gathering at the invitation of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the current president of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), amid concern that the conflict has destabilized the entire central African region.
The summit will be held against the backdrop of an impasse in the crisis in the DRC. All warring sides in the conflict agreed to a cease-fire last month in the Ugandan capital Kampala.
Specifically the summiteers will seek a consolidation of the latest ceasefire, which took effect April 14, so that the UN Security Council can give the green light to the deployment of a 5,500-strong peacekeeping force authorized in February.
The force, comprising 500 military observers and 5,000 supporting troops, will be tasked with monitoring the ceasefire and withdrawal of combatants.
Previous cease-fire agreements were signed on July 10, 1999 in the
Zambian capital Lusaka and another was signed between the Kinshasa government and the Uganda-Rwanda-backed rebels opposing Kabila's regime, also in Lusaka, on August 31.
However, breaches of these peace accords have come almost as quickly as the agreements have been signed, and a solution is as far from certain as it was when the fighting broke out in August 1998.
Kabila, Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano and Mali's Alpha Oumar Konare arrived Saturday, as well as Botswanan former president Ketumile Masire, who is charged with establishing dialogue between the government and the political opposition and rebels.
Also expected at the summit are Zambian President Frederick Chiluba, who mediated the Lusaka accord, and OAU Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim.
Kabila is the only leader from among the warring parties who will attend the meeting, which the Algerian news agency APS said would be an "opportunity to evaluate the implementation of the (1999) Lusaka accord in its different aspects."
A source close to the DRC presidency in Kinshasa told AFP that Kabila had agreed with his military allies at a meeting on April 9 to seek a summit under OAU auspices that would include African leaders with enough clout to make Rwanda and Uganda cooperate in the search for peace – (Agencies)
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