Maputo — A meeting of the Defence and Security Troika of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) began in Dar es Salaam on Tuesday, with the conflict in North Kivu, in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) at the top of the agenda.
Mozambican President Armando Guebuza is attending the meeting in his capacity as chairperson of SADC. In the morning he held bilateral meetings with the troika members - host president Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, who chairs the troika, President Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia, and South African Defence Minister Nosiviwe Noluthando Mapisa-Nqakula, representing Pesident Jacob Zuma.
He also met with Congolese President Joseph Kabila, attending the meeting as leader of the country under discussion.
At the formal opening session, Kikwete stressed that the Troika was meeting a week after Guebuza, complying with a mandate given by the SADC heads of state summit on 18 August, had visited Kigali to speak with Rwandan President Paul Kagame. Rwanda has been accused of providing military support to the M23 rebel movement, led by Bosco Ntaganda, a man accused of war crimes by the International Criminal Court.
Guebuza will brief the troika on his discussions with Kagame, and Kabila will give the Congolese government's analysis of the conflict. Kagame has publicly declared that he speaks on the phone with Kabila every day - but this has not prevented Kabila from submitting a request to the United Nations Security Council, asking for economic sanctions to be imposed against Rwanda, in order to force Kigali to drop its support for the M23.
Kabila has a strong case, since a UN team, including experts from countries such as Kenya, Canada and Holland, investigated the conflict and concluded that Rwanda was indeed supporting the rebels. SADC too, through its own channels, reached the same conclusion.
Kabila's request to the Security Council also asks for sanctions against Kagame himself, and ten senior figures in the Rwandan army, including Defence Minister Gen James Kaberebe and the Permanent Secretary in the Defence Ministry, Gen Jacques Nziza. According to the UN experts, these generals have been in permanent contact with the M23.
SADC Executive Secretary Tomas Salomao told AIM on Monday that SADC's own experts had been in Kivu, and it was on the basis of their findings that the SADC summit had condemned Rwanda.
The final communiqué from the summit called on Rwanda "to cease immediately its interference that constitutes a threat to peace and stability, not only of the DRC, but also of the SADC region", and mandated Guebuza to visit Rwanda in order "to engage the government of Rwanda with the aim of urging it to stop military support to armed rebels in the DRC".
Salomao did not exclude the possibility that other countries might also be quietly supporting the M23, and destabilising the eastern DRC.
Salomao stressed that the conflict is having a disastrous impact on the civilian population of North Kivu, many of whom have been forced out of their homes and reduced to a nomadic existence. SADC wanted to put an end to this situation immediately.
He believed that the reason for foreign intervention in the eastern DRC is the abundance of mineral resources in the region.
Salomao dismisses speculation in some of the Rwandan media about SADC waging war over the M23. What SADC really wants, he stressed, is just to help re-establish peace in the DRC, and throughout the Great Lakes region, in order to end the current suffering.
"We can only help", he added, "and what we have done is appeal to the good sense of Kagame, so that he will do his best to end the M23's war".