EU official calls for UN-run summit on Congo

The European Union is proposing a UN-organised summit of the nations bordering eastern Congo, and says Rwanda and Congo would attend such a meeting.

The European Union is proposing a UN-organised summit of the nations bordering eastern Congo, and says Rwanda and Congo would attend such a meeting.

EU Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Louis Michel says that the summit should include the leaders of Uganda, Burundi, the African Union and the EU.

After talking to regional leaders, Mr Michel said today that such a summit could create a roadmap toward a “permanent solution” for the violence.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged the warring parties in eastern Congo to start negotiations in a neutral venue to restore peace.

France’s foreign minister Bernard Kouchner and Foreign Secretary David Miliband are expected to visit both Goma, the eastern provincial capital where rebels halted their advance on Wednesday and called for a ceasefire, and the Congolese capital Kinshasa.

The international envoys aim to get Congo’s President Joseph Kabila and Rwandan president Paul Kagame to sit down together and sort out the issues at the root of the conflict.

The conflict is fuelled by festering ethnic hatred left over from Rwanda’s 1994 genocide and Congo’s unrelenting civil wars. The rebels claim the Congolese government has not protected ethnic Tutsis from the Rwandan Hutu militia that escaped to Congo after helping slaughter half a million Rwandan Tutsis.

All sides also are believed to fund fighters by illegally mining Congo’s vast mineral riches – meaning they have no financial interest in stopping the fighting.

Ordinary people are bearing the brunt of the dispute.

According to the United Nations, 50,000 Congolese appear to have fled refugee camps near Rutshuru, a village 55 miles north of Goma, in recent days. Several aid agencies reported that three camps and makeshift settlements were empty, and one aid worker said the camps were burnt down, United Nations high commissioner for refugees spokesman Karl Steinacker said.

The UN said more than a million people had been displaced – 220,000 of them since August.

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