Congo government invites militias to participate in talks


Congo's government has invited about 20 armed groups to participate in talks with Tutsi rebels to end fighting in war-ravaged North Kivu province, the information minister said today.

Tutsi insurgent leader General Laurent Nkunda demanded direct negotiations with president Joseph Kabila's government after launching a renewed offensive in late August that forced a quarter of a million people to flee violence in the east of Democratic Republic of Congo.

Repeatedly routed by Nkunda's battle-hardened fighters, the government appeared to agree to that demand on Friday, announcing it would send a delegation to Kenya to meet with the rebels on December 8th.

Information Minister Lambert Mende said today the meeting in Nairobi would also include other armed groups which signed up to a January peace deal.

"There are about 20 of them," he said. "We want this to be an inclusive process. We don't want to leave anyone out."

Kabila and Nkunda are not expected to attend the meetings in Nairobi.

A spokesman for Nkunda's National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) said the rebel delegation had not been informed of the decision to invite other groups, including pro-government militias, to the talks.

Nkunda has rejected as one-sided the peace process resulting from the January accord.

"Our position is very clear. We will negotiate with the government and no one else," the CNDP's Bertrand Bisimwa told Reuters from Nairobi.