Democratic Republic of Congo’s M23 rebels and government delegations met on Saturday with Ugandan mediators, a day ahead of the resumption of direct talks in Uganda’s capital Kampala.
According to Paddy Ankunda, Uganda’s Defence Ministry Spokesman, the two delegations are here finally for a (face-to-face) session on Sunday.
The rebels, staged a military offensive last November in the DR Congo’s mineral-rich and chronically unstable east, raising fears of a widespread conflict after they captured the Central African country’s city of Goma.
Crispus Kiyonga, Uganda’s defense minister and talks’ mediator is “meeting separately with the two delegation heads for consultations,” Ankunda added.
Uganda is hosting the talks despite accusations that it alongside Rwanda has backed the fighters, claims which both countries have vehemently denied.
The M23 rebels were ordered to withdraw from the key eastern city of Goma after a 12-day occupation by the International Conference of Great Lakes Region leaders meeting in Kampala in the wake of its capture, they still control large areas of territory just outside the strategic mining hub.
Almost two weeks of talks in December ended without even an agreement on the agenda for the negotiations, with the rebels issuing a raft of demands, including a call for a ceasefire agreement with the Kinshasa government and a major political reform for the war-weary region.
The talks, which were due to restart on Friday, are the latest in several attempts to end a long-running conflict that has forced hundreds of thousands of people in eastern DR Congo from their homes.