The Zambian government on Monday called on Angola to produce proof that it had shipped arms to the UNITA rebel movement.
According to Zambian sources and media reports, the allegations by Angola were in part responsible for the failure at the weekend of Zambian-chaired peace talks on the crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Angola’s claim of Zambian support for UNITA were made by the country’s external relations minister, Venancio de Moura, in a letter last week to his DRC counterpart, Jean-Charles Otoko Lolakome.
In what diplomats told IRIN was an indication of the difficulties the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has had in getting all parties in the DRC conflict to discuss the crisis, the Angolan government, sent only an ambassador to the talks in Lusaka at the weekend which were to have culminated in an SADC summit.
Zambian government officials told IRIN that Luanda should produce documented evidence of its allegations: “Having been a peace broker in the Angolan conflict and hosted several meetings to resolve the problem, we cannot be involved in the war there,” a Zambian government spokesman said. “It would be useful to have the information they claim to have so that we know.”
The daily ‘Times of Zambia’ quoted Alfred Zulu, president of the Zambia Independent Monitoring Team (ZIMT) as saying the “undiplomatic” manner in which the charges were made were dangerous because the renewed fighting in Angola could spill over into Zambia.
Officials recalled that similar charges had been made by the Angolan government two years ago but that a UN fact-finding mission had failed to link Zambia to UNITA’s re-armament.
Zambian officials said the gathering of SADC defence and foreign ministers was also compromised by differences between the Rwandan and Ugandan delegates on one hand, and Lolakome, the DRC foreign minister, whose team in Lusaka, according to media reports, declined to meet representatatives of the rebel delegations.
Sources said the atmosphere at the talks was also worsened by the refusal of some delegates to stand and observe a minute of silence for the victims of the DRC war.
Although there was failure to achieve consensus on an agenda, a final communique said agreement had been reached to establish a committee of DRC neighbouring countries comprising Zambia, Kenya, Botswana, the SADC, the OAU, the UN and Mauritius. In the meantime, the DRC and its allies, Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Chad announced separate talks in Windhoek, Namibia.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
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