Fifteen heads of state and leaders of governments of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) started their the 29th summit in DRC on Monday.

"The presence of such distinguished delegation in Kinshasa is evidence of the effectiveness of the restoration of peace and security in our country," President Kabila said.

The place initially hosted the then Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1967. Mobutu’s idea was to build a permanent venue for international meetings.

The site provides a magical view of Kinshasa, the River Congo and the city of Brazzaville, in the neighbouring Republic of Congo. It had been specially rehabilitated to host the summit. The summit in DRC is a big event given the political situation characterised by almost 20 years of civil strife.

Many of the SADC leaders are visiting DRC for the first time. They include Jacob Zuma of South Africa, King Mswati III of Swaziland, President Armando Guebuza of Mozambique, Mr Festus Mogae of Botswana and President Rupiah Banda of Zambia.

President Kabila reiterated his gratitude to the SADC states for the military assistance DRC received from them during the 1998 war in the country.

Meanwhile, President Banda told the SADC summit that the security situation in Burundi, Rwanda and the DRC has improved although there are "pockets of problems" in a few of these countries.

"I gave a report as the new chairman of the Great Lakes Region, pointing out that generally the situation has improved in Burundi, Rwanda and the DRC itself, although there are pockets of problems in a few of these countries," said 72-year-old Banda.

The Zambian President assumed the chairmanship of the Great Lakes Region during the regional bloc’s heads of state summit in Lusaka last August.

On the Madagascar political impasse, President Banda said South African President and outgoing SADC chairman Zuma told the summit that the situation in the Indian Ocean island had improved "a little bit" under the mediation of former Mozambique president Joachim Chissano.

"We just managed to get a report from President Zuma who was chairman, who was handing over to the Congo about those countries (Madagascar and Zimbabwe) that the situation has improved a little bit in Madagascar," said President Banda.

The mediation aimed at ending political tension in Madagascar has hit a snag over who should head the transitional government.

Toppled president Marc Ravalomanana opposed moves to have his bitter rival and successor Andry Rajoelina continue as president during the transitional period.

But 35-year-old Rajoelina declared that he wants to be president of the transitional government.