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US ready to fund demobilisation of DR Congo rebels

US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) walks with James Swan (2nd-L), US ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo, along the Congo River near the US Chief of Mission Residence in Kinshasa on May 3, 2014
US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) walks with James Swan (2nd-L), US ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo, along the Congo River near the US Chief of Mission Residence in Kinshasa on May 3, 2014

The United States is ready to help fund the demobilisation of Democratic Republic of Congo's rebels, a senior US official said on Saturday as Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in the country on the latest leg of an Africa tour.

"I can say categorically that we’re ready to support them," the official said when asked if Washington was ready to back the government's demobilisation plan for some 12,000 rebels active in dozens of militias in the country's mineral-rich, restive east, a plan that's estimated to cost some 100 million dollars.

"We are looking in our own budget for where we can provide additional funding for DRC," the official said on condition of anonymity. "And we've identified some additional funding that we hope to be able to share with them."

The European Union has also indicated that it was ready to contribute to the demobilisation plan, but wanted guarantees that it would work after two similar projects failed since 2004.

The DRC government has gained more control in the conflict-hit eastern areas since a national army offensive, backed by a special UN brigade, forced the powerful M23 rebels to lay down its arms in November.

Kerry is accompanied on the trip by US special envoy to the Great Lakes region Russ Feingold, who has taken a leading role in brokering a peace deal with M23 rebels in hostilities which date back to 1994.

Kerry, who arrived in Kinshasa on Saturday, is due to meet President Joseph Kabila for talks on Sunday before travelling to Angola in the afternoon on the last stop of an African tour that has also seen him visit South Sudan and Ethiopia.

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