- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 30, 2001

Joseph Kabila, the son and successor of Congo's assassinated President Laurent Kabila, is due this week in Washington, where he is expected to talk to U.S. officials on the prospects for ending the nearly 2-year-old conflict in his country.

In Washington at the same time will be President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, who along with President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda has troops in eastern Congo supporting indigenous militias that rose up against Mr. Kabila's father in August 1998. The governments of Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia are assisting Mr. Kabila.

Both Mr. Kabila and Mr. Kagame plan to attend a prayer breakfast this week with President Bush and foreign dignitaries, according to diplomats, but it was not clear whether they would hold private talks.

Official representatives of Zimbabwe and Namibia said they had not been notified officially that the two presidents would be in Washington. But a spokesman for the Angolan Embassy said Luanda would be "delighted with any serious efforts to bring this tragic conflict to a close."

The framework for a settlement of the Congo conflict is already in place in the form of the Lusaka accords, signed by all parties to the conflict. But its provisions have been largely ignored.

The accords call for a cease-fire and the withdrawal of foreign forces from Congo, along with a conference of all Congolese political forces and parties to the conflict. The goal of the conference would be to broaden and democratize the government.

"The internal conference is the key to a resolution of the conflict," the Angolan official said. "Everybody is tired of this dragged-out war and is seeking a way out."

Laurent Kabila had long resisted opening such a conference because he saw it as a way of easing him out of power. The accords call for the Congolese government to be treated as an equal to the other participants.

But reports since his death have said the younger Mr. Kabila is ready to revive the Lusaka accords, as are the leaders of Uganda and Rwanda. Mr. Kabila's allies Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia would also have to be satisfied with any such arrangements.

Angola joined the war at a time when Rwandan and rebel forces threatened to overrun Kinshasa, which the government of Jose Eduardo dos Santos feared would bring to power a government more friendly to his chief rival, Jonas Savimbi of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA).

Namibia also has problems on its border with armed UNITA elements, who cross into the country to escape Angolan government attacks. Zimbabwe's stake in the conflict is less clear.


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