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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

ZAMBIA: Lusaka joins regional peace and development initiative

JOHANNESBURG, 8 January 2004 (IRIN) - Zambia's admission to the six-country International Conference of the Great Lakes region on Wednesday was a step towards "formalising the role the country has already been playing" in the peace process, a senior UN official told IRIN.

UN Development Programme's (UNDP) regional co-ordinator, Enya Chuma, said Zambia's membership was an acknowledgment of the country's mediation efforts over the long-running conflict in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The conference has been established to ensure peace, democracy and development in the Great Lakes region in the wake of the withdrawal of foreign forces from the DRC and last year's agreement creating a power-sharing transitional government in Kinshasa.

Other members of the conference are the DRC, Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda.

Former Zambian president Frederick Chiluba had earlier played a leading role as part of the Southern African Development Community's negotiation of the Lusaka ceasefire agreement in the DRC.

Chuma pointed out that Zambia had also been "extremely hospitable" in accommodating refugees from across its shared border with the DRC.

He said UN envoy Ibrahim Fall was in Zambia this week for a meeting with President Levy Mwanawasa to explain the road-map towards peace in the region.

"The conference is a process and not an event and is expected to culminate in a summit, which is scheduled for November this year in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania," Mwanawasa's special assistant for political affairs, Mavis Muyunda, was quoted as saying. "The summit will be followed by inter-ministerial standing committees which will work on the implementation of the decisions of the summit."

Chuma explained that the four themes of the conference - Peace and Security; Democracy and Good Governance; Economic Development and Regional Integration; Humanitarian and Social Issues – were supported by the UN special representative's office in the region, UNDP, the Economic Commission of Africa and the Office of the Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs.

The conference process would prompt the participation of other bodies, including the World Bank and the African Development Bank, Chuma added.

The UN Security Council has been the prime mover for the International Conference on the Great Lakes region.

Addressing the UN Security Council in November last year, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan noted that the first exploratory steps towards establishing the organisation were taken between 1996 and 1997 by the then UN special envoy to the Great Lakes.

"To expedite the process, in 1999 I appointed a Special Representative based in Nairobi to consult with the leaders of the region on the objectives and organisation of such a conference," said Annan.

The preparatory process for the summit was launched in June 2003 in Nairobi after the six core countries agreed to the proposed conference.

Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict

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