SA steps in to host peace talks for Zaire

The Zairean government and the Rwandan-backed rebels who have captured a swath of eastern Zaire seem to be on the brink of their first face-to-face peace talks in Cape Town.

Speculation that the talks were already underway reached fever pitch yesterday after President Nelson Mandela said an aircraft was ready to fly the rebel leader Laurent Kabila to South Africa for talks with the nephew and chief military adviser of Mobutu Sese Seko, the ailing Zairean President.

Mr Mandela said South Africa was merely a host for the "good" initiative launched by Yoweri Museveni, President of Uganda, the neighbour Zaire accuses of backing the rebels.

South African military sources claimed that Mr Kabila landed early yesterday. The United States embassy confirmed that officials were in Cape Town to bolster the peace process.

By yesterday afternoon, however, a news blackout was in place. Rusty Evans, South Africa's director-general of foreign affairs, retracted earlier confirmations that Mr Kabila was in town. "There is a great reluctance on both sides to acknowledge that they are willing to negotiate," he said.

The Zairean government insists that it will not enter into peace talks before foreign troops have been withdrawn from its territory. Yesterday, it reiterated that position following the departure of four foreign ministers on a separate diplomatic mission to Kinshasa. A few hours later it announced fresh attacks on rebel positions.

The Zaireans talk tough but their counter-offensive launched last month has failed. And while Mr Kabila's vow to be in Kinshasa by last Christmas was over-optimistic, the rebels have made greater progress than anyone predicted.

Yesterday a spokesman for South Africa's Deputy President, Thabo Mbeki, denied that he had been involved in talks with Zaireans. But another government source said he was laying the foundations for an imminent meeting. In Kinshasa, Leon Kengo Wa Dondo, the Zairean Prime Minister, claimed he knew nothing about the Cape Town meeting.

Last Tuesday, the United Nations approved a five-point plan to end the conflict which threatens to engulf the entire Great Lakes region. But an African-brokered peace would be seen as a coup for the continent, and for South Africa in particular.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: £20000 - £25000 per annum + c...

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a number ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Sales Consultant - OTE £45,000

£15000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you want to work for an exci...

Day In a Page

Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

Latest on the Labour leadership contest
Froome seals second Tour de France victory

Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

The uses of sarcasm

'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

No vanity, but lots of flair

A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

In praise of foraging

How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food