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Low expectations as Rice heads to Ethiopia

Low expectations as Rice heads to Ethiopia

Posted 2nd December 2007

Washington - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice flies on Tuesday to Addis Ababa to consult regional leaders and ministers about how to defuse tensions and conflicts in the Horn of Africa, the Great Lakes and Sudan.

Rice will join leaders of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in the Ethiopian capital on Wednesday to tackle the “negative forces” in the Great Lakes region, US officials said.

“I want to lower your expectations that this meeting will result in… (renegade General Laurent) Nkunda and FDLR all leaving,” Rice’s pointwoman on African affairs, Jendayi Frazer, told reporters in a pre-visit briefing.

Rice is expected to discuss existing security mechanisms, including a DRC-Rwandan plan to disarm the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, which has been implicated in the 1994 genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda.

Another source of instability is Nkunda who claims to protect the minority Tutsi population.

The troubled eastern province of Nord-Kivu has seen heavy clashes since the end of August between some 4 000 insurgents loyal to the former general and more than 20 000 troops serving under DRC President Laurent Kabila.

Yet another destabilising force is the Ugandan rebel Lords Resistance Army, which hides out in the DRCongo.

Frazer, assistant secretary of state for African affairs, said the summit will build on a US-backed regional approach to help “build the capacity of the Congolese to address these negative forces in their country”.

The region has been wracked by violence since the early 1990s with the civil war that began in Burundi in 1993, the Rwandan genocide in 1994 and the regional war that raged in the DR Congo between 1998 and 2003.

During her two-day visit, Rice will also discuss Somalia, the Horn of Africa country which has been locked in civil war since 1991.

The international community is divided over the usefulness of sending UN peacekeeping forces to ensure stability in Somalia, where violence continues despite the rout of Islamist forces 10 months ago by Ethiopian troops.

Ethiopia intervened in support of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government.

Rice will meet Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed and Somalia’s new Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein, Frazer said. Also represented will be the African Union, United Nations, Uganda, Djibouti, Ethiopia and possibly Kenya.

“We’re hoping that the consultation will focus on how to achieve a more inclusive political dialogue and reconciliation to move the country towards 2009 elections,” Frazer said.

It will also aim to tackle a humanitarian emergency and “isolate extremists and spoilers who continue to use violence and then to push for quicker deployment of the African Union (AMISOM) force into Somalia”, she said.

Frazer said the talks will also touch on role of Eritrea, which she said supports not only extremists operating in Somalia but also “legitimate” non-violent opposition groups there.

Rice will also discuss efforts to shore up the fragile 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Arab Islamist government of President Omar el-Beshir in Khartoum and the mainly non-Muslim southern Sudanese.

Participating will be ministers from Djibouti, Ethiopia, Uganda, and possibly Kenya, as well as the African Union and United Nations.

Rice has also planned bilateral talks with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi when, Frazer said, the two are likely to discuss renewed tensions with neighboring Eritrea.

The Horn of Africa neighbors fought a border war from 1998 to 2000 that left 70 000 people dead.

The secretary is due to leave for Brussels on Thursday to meet with her European counterparts and attend a ministerial meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

Discussions are expected to focus on Kosovo, Afghanistan and the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty.

Rice, who canceled a trip to Africa in July to focus on Iraq, returns to Washington on Friday.

Source: AFP

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