UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
GREAT LAKES: Gearing up for regional summit
NAIROBI, 30 Jan 2006 (IRIN) - The final preparatory meeting for an international conference on Africa's Great Lakes region began on Monday in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, with delegates from 11 countries in attendance.
The three-day meeting, organised by a joint secretariat of the African Union (AU) and the United Nations, is the fourth in the process aimed at bringing lasting peace and security to the region. The participants are due to analyse draft programmes of action reflecting priority projects and protocols that were adopted by a regional ministerial meeting in Lusaka, Zambia, in July 2005.
The core countries of the conference are Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, DRC, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.
"They will also review the follow-up institutional mechanism and the special fund for reconstruction and development," said George Ola Davies, public information officer in the Office of the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative to the Great Lakes Region.
The programmes of action, projects and protocols cover the four themes of the international conference, due to be held in Nairobi later this year. The themes are: peace and security; democracy and good governance; economic development and regional integration; and humanitarian and social issues.
Ola Davies said documents that would emerge from this meeting would be submitted for review to a third meeting of the Regional Inter-Ministerial Committee to be held in February in Bangui, Central African Republic.
The ministers are due, in turn, to present them to their heads of state for adoption when they meet for the Nairobi summit, the second since the AU-UN secretariat on the Great Lakes was established. The first summit was held on 19-20 November 2004 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
This preparatory meeting comes days after the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution calling on the Great Lakes states organising the Nairobi summit to finalise its preparations. The summit was to have been held in December 2005 but was postponed until later this year, at a date yet to be determined.
The Council resolution, adopted on Friday at the UN headquarters in New York, urged the region's leaders "to finalise the preparations for the second Summit, including a clear focus on peace and security issues, with a view to adopting a Security, Stability and Development Pact for the countries of the Great Lakes region."
The Council also condemned activities of militias and armed groups in the region, such as the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR), Burundi's Forces nationales de libération (FNL) and Uganda's Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), "which continue to attack civilians and UN and humanitarian personnel and commit human rights abuses against local populations and threaten the stability of individual states and the region as a whole."
It reiterated its demand that such groups lay down their arms and engage "voluntarily and without any delay or preconditions" in their disarmament and in their repatriation and resettlement.
Council members urged Great Lakes countries to reinforce their cooperation with the Security Council in enforcing an arms embargo in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and to combat cross-border trafficking of illicit small arms.
The international conference is also supported by the Group of Friends of the Great Lakes Region, comprising 28 countries, mainly from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, plus Gabon, Nigeria and South Africa and 10 international organisations.
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