Congo peace role for Mandela

THE FORMER South African president, Nelson Mandela, is next week expected to make his first appearance in the unofficial role of international peace-broker at a summit in Zambia aimed at ending the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mr Mandela, who after Thabo Mbeki's inauguration on Wednesday left yesterday for a holiday with his wife, Graca Machel, is expected in Lusaka on Saturday 26 June for the signing of a ceasefire deal, diplomats in Pretoria said yesterday.

President Mbeki's inauguration provided African leaders linked to the conflict in DRC a chance to hold talks. "All the parties in the conflict now want to end the fighting. We are now at the stage of looking at everyone's sensitivities,'' said a diplomat close to the talks yesterday.

The talks, at the government guesthouse in Pretoria, were chaired by the Zambian leader, Frederick Chiluba, and attended by representatives of major players in the conflict: Sam Nujoma of Namibia, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Pasteur Bizimungu of Rwanda, Joachim Chissano of Mozambique, Banjamin Mkapa of Tanzania, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Salim Ahmed Salim, secretary-general of the Organisation of African Unity, and President Mbeki.

The embattled president of the former Zaire, Laurent-Desire Kabila, was represented by his presidential affairs minister, Victor Mpoyo. The rebels' new leader, Emile Ilunga, is believed to have been in a separate guesthouse and to have used Sydney Mufamadi, the South African minister for provincial affairs, as an intermediary.

The leaders agreed that they or their representatives would convene in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, on Monday for talks leading up to the signing of a ceasefire document on 26 June.