Eight-nation summit discusses DRC

Eight nations in southern and central Africa met on Wednesday to discuss the situation in Democratic Republic of Congo, a country that has been a regional battleground twice in the last quarter-century.

The one-day mini-summit was being staged in Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo, four days before problem-strewn elections in the neighbouring DRC.

A DRC representative was not present, an official at the meeting told AFP.

"The leaders are meeting to assess the peace and security situation in the sub-region, but they are essentially going to discuss the electoral process in the DRC," said Cyprien Sylvestre Mamina, secretary general for foreign affairs in the Republic of Congo.

"The DRC is not being represented at the moment, but a delegation arriving later cannot be ruled out," he said.

The meeting brought together many members of the the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR).

Those attending were Angola, Botswana, Congo, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia.

Five countries were represented by their presidents, while the others sent foreign ministers or lower-level officials.

The DRC elections will choose a successor to President Joseph Kabila, in charge of the volatile mineral-rich country for nearly 18 years.

Kabila was due to step down at the end of 2016 after reaching his constitution-limited two terms in office.

But he stayed on, invoking a caretaker clause in the constitution.

The elections were postponed until the end of 2017 under a deal brokered by the powerful Catholic church - and then again until 2018, when Kabila eventually confirmed he would not run again.

The country's election commission then moved the date from December 23 to December 30 after a fire destroyed voting equipment.

And on Wednesday, the panel said voting in two regions hit by violence would be postponed to March.

Despite this, the timetable for the presidential elections will not be affected, with the next head of state scheduled to be sworn in on January 18, the commission said.

The second biggest country in Africa, the DRC has never had a peaceful transfer of power since it gained independence from Belgium in 1960.

In 1996-1997 and 1998-2003 it became the theatre of two wars that left millions of dead and homeless and sucked in countries from around central and southern Africa.

Smaller conflicts are unfolding in the DRC's east, where swathes of the countryside are in the grip of brutal militias.

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