By Christian Tsoumou and Jonny Hogg, Reuters
(Reuters) - Democratic Republic of Congo
will start talks next week aimed at easing a political standoff in the
capital and ending remote rebellions, with the leader of neighbouring
Congo Republic taking some form of mediating role.
DRC's last major war ended a
decade ago, but localised rebellions, as well as rampant corruption,
have hamstrung efforts to rebuild the vast former Belgian colony, a
target for billions of dollars of foreign investment.
As well as the "M23" rebellion near the border
with Rwanda in the east, and one in the in the Katangan copper belt in
the south, political tensions have simmered in the capital Kinshasa, in
the west, since President Joseph Kabila's 2011 re-election in a vote the
opposition says was riddled by fraud.
Now, the political opposition will take part in talks with the government, rebel groups and civil society, after Congo
Republic's president, Denis Sassou Nguesso, agreed to "accompany" the
process, although his role and the scope of the discussions are yet to
"We came to meet the
president to tell him that we will start our dialogue next week," Kengo
Wa Dondo, president of DRC's senate, told reporters late on Thursday
after meeting Nguesso in Congo Republic's capital, Brazzaville.
spokesman for the president confirmed he had accepted the role, the
exact nature of which will be clarified in further meetings in Kinshasa.
"He is available 24 hours a day. What more can you say?" Wa Dondo said.
two nation's capitals are separated only by the Congo River but
Nguesso's involvement comes after years of strained relations with
Problems stemmed mainly
from accusations by Kinshasa that Brazzaville was harbouring alleged
coup plotters accused of trying to topple Kabila's government.
visit by Kabila to his counterpart last month to discuss regional
politics, including the M23 rebellion, appears to have laid the
foundations for Nguesso's involvement.
is already holding talks with the M23 rebels, who briefly seized the
eastern city of Goma last year in a major embarrassment to both Congo
and a 19,000-strong United Nations peacekeeping mission.
But those negotiations, hosted by Uganda, have stalled and the Congolese army has gained ground in the fighting.
separate group of rebels carried out an attack in March on Lubumbashi,
the capital of the copper mining province of Katanga, which neighbours
Zambia in the southeast, exposing Kinshasa's vulnerability to gunmen
feeding off local grievances and years of secessionist sentiment.
beefed-up U.N. force tasked with tackling all rebels in Congo is soon
due to be operational but it is not clear who they will target first.
Wa Dondo gave no details on the structure of the talks but confirmed that armed groups would be involved.
Moleka, spokesman for leading opposition politician Etienne Tshisekedi,
said that they would welcome Nguesso's mediation in the process but
that questions remained over what will be on the agenda.
a link between the problems in the east of the country and the west
(Kinshasa), and there's a link between those problems and the badly
managed elections of 2011," he said.
"There needs to be facilitation so everyone can agree what the dialogue should discuss."
(The story has been filed again to fix a typo in the lead.)
(Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)