Congolese President Joseph Kabila recently
met with his Ugandan counterpart and foe Yoweri Museveni to discuss ways of
ending armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. "Among other
things, we discussed the importance of implementing an existing ceasefire
agreement," said President Kabila.
According to news organizations, Museveni and Kabila met at the request of
Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa. At the meeting, Museveni pledged to
withdraw his soldiers from Congo. Kabila called on the United Nations peacekeeping
troops to increase their presence in his country. "We hope that the
meeting will contribute to current efforts aimed at bringing an end to the
fighting," said a United Methodist teacher in Kinshasa.
Since inheriting the presidency earlier this year, the young Congolese
president has been meeting with his foes to talk peace. The war in Congo pits the Congolese government against multiple rebel
factions backed by Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi. Angolan, Namibian, and Zimbabwean troops are fighting
alongside Congolese government soldiers.
Thousands of people, including many of the more than one million Congolese
United Methodists, have been displaced by the fighting. "This has put a
big burden on the church and the country as a whole," says South Congo Bishop Katembo Kainda. According to a report from
the New York-based International Rescue Committee, an estimated 2.5 million
people have been killed since the war began.
After eleven months of intense fighting, the belligerents signed the Lusaka
Ceasefire Agreement. However, despite international pressure, as well as peace
initiatives by the United Methodist Church and other Congolese religious leaders, guns did not fall silent until
President Laurent Kabila was assassinated earlier this year. His son Joseph has
called for the implementation of the Lusaka agreement, which provides for
withdrawal of all foreign forces and an inter-Congolese dialogue to determine
the political future of the Democratic Republic of Congo.