Zambia will not send its troops to the Democratic Republic of Congo as its defence forces are currently over-stretched with matters of internal security. Meanwhile, in a positive turn of events, Tutsi rebel leader Laurent Nkunda has acknowledged the need for peace as too many lives are being lost.
Defence Minister, George Mpombo is quoted today as saying that although the United Nations had not made an official request for Zambia to send peacekeepers to the DRC, the Government would have to thoroughly analyse the request before sending any troops there.
Currently, there are more than 300 Zambian peacekeepers in Sudan, while a good number are in Ethiopia, Sierra Leone and Eritrea a scenario Mpombo said would require serious consideration before allowing the peacekeepers to move to the DRC.
“We will make Zambia’s official position known if an official request is made, but what should be realised is that we are over-stretched with our internal security matters and so we cannot send our soldiers to the DRC,” Mpombo is quoted as saying.
He said Zambia also had a good number of troops serving on the Southern African Development Community standby brigade.
This has left Zambia with few troops to look at the internal security situation.
Meanwhile things are looking bright for the Congo.
After a meeting with UN envoy to DR Congo, Nigeria’s former president, Mr. Olusegun Obasanjo, Tutsi rebel leader Laurent Nkunda acknowledged to the BBC that too many lives had been lost in the fighting.
“Today is a great day for us because we were losing many men and now we have a message of peace. We should work with this mission. We agree to open humanitarian corridors to support the peace process”, he said.
The meeting came amid reports of fresh clashes in the east of the country.
An estimated 250,000 people have been made homeless by weeks of conflict between rebels and government troops.
The rebel leader agreed to cease-fire monitors as long as they did not include UN peacekeepers, whom he accuses of bias and also if the Congolese government ceased fire.
Mr. Obasanjo said it would take effort from both sides to keep a truce.
The UN envoy has said that the discussions had gone well but concerted efforts would be needed: “‘it’s like dancing the tango: you can’t do it alone,’ he added.
Mr. Obasanjo, who met DR Congo President Mr. Joseph Kabila on Friday, said the president had not laid down conditions for talks with the country’s rebels.
He also met members of DR Congo’s parliament and ambassadors representing UN Security Council members in Kinshasa on Saturday.