As assassinated President Laurent-Desire Kabila is buried in the capital city, Kinshasa, central African nations show solidarity with his successor and son, Major-General Joseph Kabila. This show of solidarity goes much further than an expression of political condolences. Rather, it is an attempt to halt the increasingly apparent break-up of the DR Congo (Democratic Republic of the Congo) and the subsequent explosion of ethnic conflicts in the area. The Tutsi/Hutu conflict has spanned the centuries. Both ethnic groups are present in Rwanda and Burundi but also in eastern DR Congo (formerly called Zaire, under President Mobutu Sese Seko). Uganda is involved also as its western ethnic groups spill over into eastern DR Congo. In short, the whole area is unfortunately another legacy of western European colonialism. The western European powers, in what was probably, at the time, a mixture between a benevolent attempt to "educate" and a ruthless desire to plunder, spent their time drawing lines on maps in comfortable offices in European capital cities, with no regard for or understanding of the ethnic reality in the field. Europeans consider rivers and mountains as natural barriers. Africans naturally settle on both banks of a river, so that they can benefit as much as possible from the riches it will bring. When foreign powers and rulers divide the natural ethnic groupings, forcing the same people to assimilate different cultures, languages and habits, all in the name of humanity, things start to go wrong. It is not difficult to read the map of Africa in the last two centuries and the situation now in the DR Congo is very worrying indeed. However, showing an ever-increasing political maturity, central African countries, understanding the impending danger, take immediate steps to keep the status quo for the time being. Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe have sent another contingent of troops to support the new President, Joseph Kabila, who was trained in the PR China. As the rebel Tutsi forces in the east of the country threaten the second city, Lubumbashi, Maputo (capital of Mozambique) prepares to receive the Southern African Defence Council summit tomorrow. Its resolutions are expected to prepare interim arrangements to keep Kinshasa's regime alive and to avoid what threatens to be Africa's bloodiest conflict ever, our correspondent Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey reports from Lisbon.

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