Senior government officials from the Great Lakes region on Sunday started a two-day meeting here that will discuss among others the illegal exploitation of natural resources that is fueling conflicts in the region.
Liberata Mulamula, the executive secretary of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) told reporters that illegal exploitation of natural resources is one of the complex challenges the region is facing in resolving conflicts.
"The armed groups use the revenue from the minerals for instance in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) to continue with the war and instability," she said.
She said the meeting which has brought together officials from Angola, Burundi, the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, DR Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania, and Zambia, will discuss the conflict minerals in preparation for a special summit later this year.
"The heads of state decided to give it the highest priority especially in eastern DR Congo. The region would be playing lip service if we ignore this area," she said, noting that the summit will be held in DR Congo in November this year.
The Great Lakes region has been embroiled in decades of violent conflicts which have had spill over effects into other countries. Millions of people have lost their lives while millions of others have been left homeless.
Meanwhile Isaac Musumba, Uganda's minister of state for regional affairs who opened the meeting said that the security situation in the region is gradually stabilizing.
"Our region is gradually transforming from a zone of mutual suspicion and antagonism into a zone of cooperation and mutual support," he said.
"If we maintain this trend, we shall not only be able to resolve outstanding challenges including those related to peace and security, democracy and humanitarian concerns but we shall also be able to prevent recurrence of such problems," he added.
The senior officials' meeting precedes the regional inter- ministerial committee meeting which will also be held here starting on May 25.
The ministerial meeting will consider the prevailing political and security situation in the member states and discuss the preparations for the special summit on the illegal exploitation of natural resources.