4 October 2012

Congo-Kinshasa: Lasting Peace

Photo: Phil Moore/IRIN
A displaced Congolese man sits in a classroom of the Katoyi primary school being used by displaced people for shelter in Masisi territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo's North Kivu province on June 4, 2012.

The Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AU) recently welcomed efforts by Member States and the Executive Secretariat of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), to find a lasting solution to the situation in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

During its 335th meeting, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the Council particularly expressed its appreciation to Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, as ICGLR Chairperson, for his role and initiatives that led to a suspension of the armed confrontation between the Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC) and the M23 rebels.

"In this regard, Council fully supports all the measures set out in the Declaration adopted by the 3rd Extraordinary Summit of the ICGLR, held in Kampala, Uganda, on 8 September 2012," reads part of the September 19 communiqué.

The measures set out in the previous Kampala summit include: the cessation of hostilities and the diplomatic efforts; a neutral international force; an expanded Joint Verification Mechanism (JVM) and the Joint Intelligence Fusion Center (JIFC); and a Humanitarian Trust Fund. The expanded JMV was launched on September 14, in the border town of Goma, the North Kivu capital. Also appreciated is the cooperation between the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and regional countries "towards the search for a lasting solution." Further still, in its 335th meeting, the Council adopted several decisions on the security situation in eastern DRC. It stressed the need for sustained efforts to eradicate the presence of the negative forces in eastern DRC, effectively restore State authority, and promote lasting peace, security and stability in the region, including the effective implementation of the Goma Agreement of 23 March 2009 between the DRC government and the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP).

This would be on the basis of a comprehensive assessment of progress made in the implementation of the recommendations of the former Joint Special Envoys of the ICGLR, the AU and the UN, former Presidents Benjamin Mkapa and Olusegun Obasanjo, with the view to enabling the countries of the region to determine the best way forward. The Council put particular importance to the effective operationalization of the JVM, as well as the establishment and deployment of the envisaged Neutral International Force as it welcomed steps underway to dispatch a military assessment team to eastern DRC comprising representatives of the ICGLR countries and the AU Commission. International partners, including the UN and the EU, are participating in the military assessment team.

A Committee of ICGLR Ministers of Defense had on September 15 met in Goma for an elaboration of the terms of reference of the assessment team. The Council requested the UN to provide necessary support to the efforts of regional countries, particularly with regard to the operationalization of the neutral international force and the expanded JVM.

"In this context, Council stresses the vital role of the Security Council, bearing in mind its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. Council calls upon all other members of the international community, in particular AU's bilateral and multilateral partners, to extend the necessary support to the efforts of the ICGLR," reads the Council's communiqué. A high-level meeting on the situation in the DRC was held in New York, on September 27, at the initiative of the UN Secretary-General. On October 8, an Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State of the ICGLR will be held in Kampala, Uganda, to review the status of implementation of the decisions taken on September 8 to enable it pronounce itself on the evolution of the situation and take all appropriate decisions on the matter.

Rwanda committed

Prof. Joseph Nsengimana, the Rwandan envoy to Ethiopia and permanent representative to the AU and Economic Commission for Africa((ECA), who was invited to make a statement at the meeting, used the opportunity to re-affirm Rwanda's position, reiterating that the current security situation in eastern DRC "is an internal Congolese matter." Amb. Nsengimana reiterated his government's rejection of "all" allegations implicating Rwanda in the eastern DRC conflict. However, he also stressed that Rwanda remains committed "and ready to contribute" to a lasting solution towards peace and stability in eastern DRC. Before the latest chaos started, in April, with hundreds of Congolese army officers mutinying and forming what is now called the M23 rebellion, the two countries' armies had been working together to eliminate the vestiges of the Force Democratique pour la Liberation du Rwanda (FDLR) militia. The FDLR are remnants of the ex-FAR [former Rwandan government army] and Interahamwe militia which masterminded the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. They fled to eastern DRC where they have ever since raped, killed, pillaged from defenseless communities, as well as helped themselves on the country's vast resources.

Rwanda has already presented a rebuttal to allegations that it is helping the M23 rebels. But Congolese government officials continue to accuse their neighbor of meddling in the volatile North Kivu Province.

Amb. Nsengimana told the Council that: "It is not a recycling of allegations as it has been made here by the Ambassador of DRC which will make them true. We are of the view that searching for a scapegoat by DRC will never lead to a solution for the current situation in Eastern DRC." Rwanda has welcomed regional efforts especially by the ICGLR in finding a lasting solution to the eastern DRC situation. The DRC's neighbor believes regional efforts, and particularly the JMV, are "an important development" which gives ICGLR countries an opportunity to bear witness that it has nothing to hide. "I would like to emphasize that any solution to the current situation in DRC, to be sustainable, have to solve the root causes of this situation. The 18 years presence of the Genocidal militia, FDLR, in the region is one of this root causes and remain a serious security threat to the entire region."

Rwanda has requested the AU and the international community to make available all necessary means for the eradication of all the militia groups operating in eastern DRC, for lasting peace to carry the day, in the region.

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