, KAMPALA September 5- Presidents from Africa’s Great Lakes region gathered Thursday in Uganda for a fresh bid to broker a deal to end fighting in resource rich eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
The meeting of the 11 member International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) the seventh such summit held to try to find a lasting solution comes amid a recent upsurge in violence.
Congolese troops, backed by a special United Nations force, launched a fresh assault against the M23 army mutineers in the turbulent North Kivu province late last month.
Conflict in the fertile and valuable mining region has in the past dragged regional powers into the fighting, with both Rwanda and Uganda accused of backing the M23, claims they flatly deny.
Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni and Tanzania’s Jakaya Kikwete arrived early at the talks, held at a luxury lakeside resort outside Kampala, Ugandan foreign ministry spokesman Elly Kamahungye told AFP.
Tanzanian troops are a key part of the newly deployed UN force specially mandated to attack rebel units, and relations with neighbouring Rwanda have been tense in recent months.
DR Congo leader Joseph Kabila is also expected, but Congolese delegation official Juvenal Kabongo said it was not yet decided if he would meet with Rwanda’s Kagame on the sidelines of the talks.
UN special envoy Mary Robinson and African Union Commission chief Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma are also due to attend to push leaders to revive stalled peace efforts.
The M23 was launched by Tutsi soldiers who mutinied from Congo’s army in April 2012 and turned their guns on their former comrades.
Last week the rebels moved back from positions around Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, which they seized for 12 days last November before pulling out under international pressure.
It is not clear if M23 rebels will also be present on the sidelines, although delegation head Rene Abandi is in the city, saying on Wednesday he was yet to receive an invitation.
Talks between the M23 and Kinshasa began last year but broke down in May, and despite promises they would resume, have made little headway.