18 January 2002
The British and French foreign ministers travel to the Democratic Republic of Congo Monday to kickoff a three-day, four-nation tour of the troubled region of Central Africa.
The mission will be jointly led by British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and his French counterpart Hubert Vedrine.
They will be visiting the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda.
Their primary objective is to breathe new life into the peace process in the war-torn Congo.
Specifically, the British and French want to see the withdrawal of foreign troops who back the Congolese government (n Kinshasa, demobilization of rebels who occupy more than half the country, and peace talks to end the conflict.
British Foreign Secretary Straw said the mission also has a broader goal of making sure the Congo does not become another Afghanistan.
"The 11th of September has made it much more urgent that we take earlier action against failed, and failing states," he said.
In Kinshasa, the ministers will meet Congolese President Joseph Kabila. He took power one year ago, after his father, President Laurent Kabila, was assassinated by one of his bodyguards.
Their next stop will be Kigali for talks with Rwandan President Paul Kagame, and the leader of the Rally for Congolese Democracy rebels, Adolphe Onusumba.
The ministers will make a brief visit to Burundi to discuss that country's civil war with President Pierre Buyoya.
The tour will end in Uganda, where meetings are scheduled with President Yoweri Museveni and Jean-Pierre Bemba, who leads the Movement for the Liberation of Congo guerrillas.