By Henry Mukasa and Raymond Baguma
The fourth emergency summit on the crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo opened at Speke Resort Munyonyo with both President Joseph Kabila (DRC) and Paul Kagame (Rwanda) in attendance.
M23 rebels led by Gen. Bosco Ntaganda in April launched rebellion on the Government of President Kabila leading to the displacement of over 260,000 Congolese while another 60,000 have crossed to Uganda and Rwanda to seek refugee.
President Yoweri Museveni is chairing the meeting in his capacity as current head of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR). Other leaders at Munyonyo are; Pierre Nkurunziza (Burundi), Salva Kiir (South Sudan) and Vice Presidents, Dr Muhammed Gharib Bilal (Tanzania), Dr Alhaj Adam Youssuf (Sudan).
Ministers who represented their presidents are; Gen. Charles Richard Mondjo (National Defense, Republic of Congo), Candido Van Dunem Pereira Do Santos (National Defense, Angola), Prof. Sam Ongeri (Foreign Affairs, Kenya) and Lungu Edgar (Home Affairs, Zambia).
In his message to the summit, the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon noted that he was deeply concerned about the security and humanitarian conditions, which continue to deteriorate “and pose threat to the stability of the wider Great Lakes Region.”
“The M23 has recently made advances Northwards from its positions in North Kivu, is continuing to destablise activities in the area that it occupies and is perpetrating serious human rights violations, including child recruitment and sexual violence,” Ban observed.
The UN chief condemned the M23 and other armed groups for mating out violence in the region and called for punitive measures. “These need to be thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators must be held accountable,” Ban said.
The summit will consider recommendations, drawn up at earlier meetings and the Regional Inter Ministerial Committee (RIMC) composed of minister of Foreign Affairs and those of Defense that have been meeting behind closed doors for the last two days.
Issues that the leaders will take concrete decisions on include; composition and deployment of the proposed international neutral force to monitor the Eastern DRC region where rebels are marauding.
The RIMC report to the summit quotes International Relations minister Henry Okello Oryem as saying that during the UN High Level meeting on the situation in DRC, it became clear that some Security Council members favoured the strengthening of the UN peace keeping mission in DRC (MONUSCO) instead of deployment of another international force.
Another teething issue that leaders have to grapple with is the funding and arming of the proposed force. Tanzania and South Africa are the only countries so far that have pledged to contribute troops. Countries sharing a boundary with DRC are said to be interested parties and are therefore barred from contributing troops to the ‘international neutral force.’
Ahead of the summit, the ministers recommended that the ICGLR Humanitarian Fund should be coordinated by the UN office of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) and funds banked with KCB – Bujumbura branch.
As a result of the numerous meetings and summits by the regional body (ICGLR) over the DRC crisis, it was agreed that each member state pays $75,000) to cover the unplanned activities.
On the application of South Sudan to join regional body, the RIMC deferred the matter to the next meeting to be held in Bangui, Central Africa Republic in November.