By Raymond Baguma
Regional leaders have directed that peace negotiations between the M23 rebels and the Government of Congo should resume as a way of ending fighting in eastern DR Congo.
This was in a declaration made at the end of an emergency meeting called by President Yoweri Museveni in his capacity as the chairperson of the regional body, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR).
The meeting was attended by the four other regional Presidents Joseph Kabila (DR Congo), Salva Kiir (South Sudan), Paul Kagame (Rwanda) and Jakaya Kikwete (Tanzania). Also present were Mary Robinson the UN special envoy to the Great Lakes region and Dlamini Zuma the chairperson of the African Union Commission.
The Presidents directed that the peace negotiations should resume within the three days after their Heads of State summit, and conclude within a maximum period of 14 days.
They however stopped short of calling for a ceasefire to the fighting; and said that the region and the UN combat force will continue ‘exerting pressure’ on M23 and all other negative forces operating in DCR to ensure they stop war.
Some of the other negative groups operating in DRC include the Ugandan Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA); as well as Burundian dissident group National Force of Liberation (FNL) and Rwandan Interahamwe Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).
President Museveni invited other regional leaders to Kampala where they held a meeting to discuss the security situation following renewed fighting in the restive eastern DRC.
In his remarks, Museveni said, “Although fighting in Goma is more talked about, there are many areas of eastern Congo near our border which are infested by terrorist groups either from outside Congo or from within Congo. Next to our border (Uganda) for many years ADF has been terrorising people.”
Museveni added, “The dialogue has been going on in Kampala for many months. They have held discussion. A few parts were remaining...and with the dialogue we had today between the facilitator and President Kabila, if they are carried forward, we can get M23 to come out peacefully so that the UN intervention brigade deals with other forces.”
Museveni also said that continental peace and stability has in the past been established in countries where African has worked together with the international community, citing past cases of South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, and Guinea Bissau.
Robinson said, “The events of the last few days put to the test the commitments made by signatory countries under the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework Agreement for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region.”
The agreement was signed on 24 February this year in Addis Ababa by leaders of 11 African countries of some of which include DR Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, South Africa, Burundi, Congo, Angola and Tanzania and pledged not to interfere in the affairs of their neighbours.
The leaders also condemned the recent bombings in the areas of Munigi and Goma in DRC which led the civilian injuries and deaths, including the deaths of a senior UN officer attached to the intervention brigade. The Presidents condemned bombings initiated from DRC into Rwanda which caused deaths of Rwandan nationals.
They directed the region’s Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism (EJVM) to investigate the two bombing incidents and report to the chairperson of the committee of ministers of defence as soon as the investigations are complete.
Also, the UN Stabilisation Mission in Congo (MONUSCO) will have a representation on the EJVM and is expected to provide logistical support to facilitate the EJVM carry out its mandate.
They called on the international community to respond to the humanitarian crisis in eastern DR Congo and provide urgent assistance including relief aid in form of food, medicine and accommodation to the displaced people.
ICGLR as well as the South African Development Community (SADC) are to jointly organise a summit aimed to find a lasting solution to the DRC conflicts.