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Obasanjo hopeful on DRC crisis

NAIROBI, November 17 – Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo on Monday said he was optimistic that a permanent solution to the crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo would be found soon.

The former Head of State who is in Kenya, said his Sunday talks with the Congo rebel leader Laurent Nkunda were fruitful and that he was currently addressing the demands he gave him.

He said Mr Nkunda had demanded talks with the government on political, economic and security concerns of the minority community in the country.

“Our meeting was very cordial, orderly, frank and very friendly too.  I asked him to give me his demands and he said he wants to negotiate with the government on three key issues. These are legitimate issues,” Mr Obasanjo told journalists in Nairobi on Monday.

“He also wants the full implementation of the Amani process that was initiated there earlier because he feels that the implementation of this process has excluded those outside the government,” he said.

Mr Obasanjo told a news conference attended by Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula and Ambassador Liberata Mulamula of the Great Lakes Region that Mr Nkunda particularly demanded to have his rebel forces integrated back into the government in which he was also willing to serve.

“So he is not talking about anything that will keep him and his people out of the country’s national leadership. He is talking about the integration of his soldiers into the national army and he is even ready to continue serving in the army.  He wants an assurance from the UN and AU on these,” he said.

Mr Obasanjo added: “And I asked directly, what do you want for yourself, and he said that if all these demands are met he will leave it to the authorities and go back to continue serving in the army.  That again is an indication that he is not ready to go out of the national authority.”

The former Head of State said Mr Nkunda did not give any pre-conditions during the Sunday talks and has even agreed to sustain a ceasefire.

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“We agreed on the sustenance of a ceasefire.  We also agreed on the formation of a committee to deal with any violation of a ceasefire. We were also in agreement that there is need to be a secure corridor to sustain humanitarian issues and the crisis,’ he said.

Mr Obasanjo said Mr Nkunda had asked him and his team to help mediate a peace process between him and the government.

“He wants our team not only to facilitate the process, but he also wants us to mediate between him and the government. We cannot do this at the moment because I am not mandated to do that, unless that is included by those who gave us the job,” he said.

Asked why there was continued fighting even as he held talks with Mr Nkunda on Sunday, Mr Obasanjo said he had also posed the same question to Mr Nkunda.

“When I asked him this he said the problem was the proximity of different forces in the warring zones. He said the government forces kept on crisscrossing quite often.  There was fighting there even as we were there and even as we left. I asked him to explain that to the world and he said various forces like FDLR, Government forces, Monuc and others are all crisscrossing and I even saw that myself from the helicopter as I flew above,” Mr Obasanjo said.

He said Mr Nkunda told him that it was FDLR that triggered the latest round of violence. “When I talked to him last night (Sunday), there was still fighting but I will be talking to him again,” he said.


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