President Mbeki is betting his diplomatic credibility on success
in brokering peace in Congo and Burundi
South Africa is about to raise the stakes by committing three battalions for peacekeeping duties in Burundi and eastern Congo, having hosted a succession of summits to persuade warring factions to disarm and demobilise. With Johannesburg mining houses greedily eyeing Congo's scandale géologique, Pretoria's interests are not wholly altruistic but its diplomatic efforts reflect President Thabo Mbeki's aim of pacifying Africa's conflict zones. Central Africa's conflict takes in six countries - Congo-Kinshasa, Congo-Brazzaville, Central African Republic, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda - before washing down into Angola and Zambia. As long as wars rage across borders and feed new conflicts, serious economic development and investment can be ruled out - a massive obstacle in the centre of the continent to Mbeki's hoped-for African Renaissance. Pretoria has been involved in Great Lakes politics since 1996, when it tried and failed to broker a settlement between Zairean President Mobutu Sese Seko and his eventual successor Laurent-Desiré Kabila.
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