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DRC, M23 Peace Talks to Resume in Uganda Friday

by Peter Clottey January 03, 2013

A spokesman for Uganda's government says talks between the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the M23 group are scheduled to resume Friday, despite threats by the rebels to pull out.

The talks would be held in Uganda's capital, Kampala.

Spokesman Fred Opolot says Uganda's defense minister, Crispus Kiyonga, will be mediating in the talks and is working closely with the two sides to help resolve some of their differences before they start.

"The regional bloc has been working extremely hard to ensure that both parties come to the table…for the peaceful resolution as far as the conflict in the eastern DRC is concerned," said Opolot.

The talks were suspended over the December holidays. Opolot says representatives of the government and the rebels unanimously agreed on the rules and procedure and agenda for the talks.

"As far as the agenda is concerned, there was just one sticking point and it wasn't as contentious as some commentators believe. But, we expect that some of these issues resolved amicably. By then, they would have time to consult with the [regional] heads of state of the International Conference of the Great Lakes," Opolot said.

The rebels had threatened to pull out of the talks, insisting the government signs a ceasefire agreement. But the Kinshasa government rejected the demands.

Some analysts say if the talks fail, it could plunge the DRC into a deeper security crisis. But, Opolot says representatives of both groups are working to resolve outstanding differences.

"There were some concerns, but it is in the process and both sides deliberating, and indeed further consultations are ongoing, in as far as that aspect of the talks is concerned," said Opolot.

He said regional leaders are hopeful that a solution can be found soon.

"Before the Christmas break, the mood at the talks was generally great and both parties were jovial," Opolot said. "And indeed they had agreed on contentious issues and agreed that they will try to further go for consultations with their principals."

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