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Southern African nations to tackle DR Congo conflict

Conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and the political crises in Madagascar and Zimbabwe will top the agenda of a summit of southern African countries in Tanzania on Thursday, officials said.

In addition to host Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit will be attended by South African President Jacob Zuma and his counterpart Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia, the other two nations in the SADC troika handling regional security issues.

President Armando Emilio Guebuza of Mozambique will also attend, according to Aly Kombo, spokesman for the Tanzanian foreign affairs ministry.

“They’ll examine the situation in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar and Zimbabwe,” he said, adding that a preparatory meeting at ministerial level would take place Wednesday.

The DR Congo army last year faced an offensive launched in the east of the country by the M23 rebel movement that in November took the key town of Goma.

The rebels finally pulled out of Goma on December 1 with the promise of negotiations with the DR Congo government.

Regional countries from the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) have been trying since July to set up a neutral international force to neutralise the numerous militia groups that prey on civilians in eastern DR Congo.

The 15-nation SADC, at its last summit here in December, said it would activate its regional standby force in order to deploy it in the framework of the neutral force.

Tanzania said it would send a battalion and command the force.

DR Congo and the UN both accuse Rwanda and Uganda of providing military assistance to the M23. Kigali and Kampala, both ICGLR members, deny the accusations.