Regional leaders under the guidance of the International Conference of the Great Lakes (ICGL) appear to be making progress in their efforts to bring peace to the eastern DRC while the UN still imposes a look-like reversal for Rwanda, after it maintained its stance that the country was the real force behind the M23 rebellion that has seen the rebels cut out a territory for themselves in North Kivu.
As the Heads of State from the region recently agreed in Uganda's capital Kampala to continue all diplomatic and political means possible to find a comprehensive solution to the crisis in Eastern DRC, the UN renewed its attack on Rwanda charging, in a final report of its Group of Experts on DR Congo that was slated for official release on Friday, October 12, that Rwanda hadn't stopped backing the rebels despite international criticism on account of its alleged support to the rebellion.
In a stark contrast to the UN position, which threatened to narrow the room for dialogue, the regional leaders pushed ahead with their search for "a regional solution" to the crisis with Uganda, which chairs the ICGLR, attempting to get officials from the Congolese government to talk directly with M23 representatives.
Information indicates that Uganda's President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni invited M23 representatives to Kampala on request from DR Congo's President Joseph Kabila.
Whereas the Congolese government has warmed up to the idea of reviewing the March 23, 2009 agreement, which the rebels accuse the government of dishonouring, Congolese government officials are roundly opposed to any direct talks with the rebels because they perceive them as criminals, according to some of Congolese delegation members in the previous meeting.
Independent sources from Kampala say that the Congolese government fears direct talks with M23 rebels might have an increase effect with several other militia and rebel groups present in Eastern DRC demanding similar treatment from the government.
Though complications for the solution appear to be toughly challenging, the effort to overcome the crisis is clearly visible in the region than on the International community. The Rwandan minister for foreign affairs Louise Mushikiwabo has told the media in the very recent francophone summit in Kinshasa, that the DRC conflict is "wrongly understood internationally".
Direct talks are possible
Considering what is going on in the region to find a solution, it might sound as if the International Community is not on the same track with the Great Lakes region countries. Uganda which was tasked by ICGLR to chair the talks between DRC government and M23 says there is progress and even direct talks are not completely ruled out.
"The truth is there has been progress on the ground and there is progress diplomatically as well. We are managing the crisis in the Eastern DRC as best as we can and M23 rebels are responding to the Chair's [of ICGLR] to stop fighting and to respect international obligations," Henry Okello Oryem, Uganda's deputy foreign affairs minister in charge of international relations, has said.
"We did not manage to get M23 representatives to talk directly with the Congolese government but President Museveni has talked to them through [Ugandan Minister of Defence] Crispus Kiyonga and it is agreed they should present their grudges and the Conference will consider them," Oryem said.
"But we hope at some stage once suspicion has been removed and confidence built, it will be possible to have direct talks [between M23 and the Congolese government," Oryem added.
The Rwandan position on the UN final report has remained the same. "A kitchen-sink strategy, collating every available piece of rumours and hearsay evidence hoping that the sheer volume of accusation would make up for a complete absence of material evidence to prove their case."
According to Oryem, the UN position will not affect the ongoing regional efforts because "as far as the region is concerned, we are dealing with this problem in ways which we know best. We welcome support from the UN, EU and other organisations but ultimately it falls to us in the ICGLR to resolve this problem peacefully."
Oryem added that whereas the UN continues to criticise Rwanda, it has not offered any practical ways of bringing peace to eastern Congo.
Gahiji Innocent is the chief political columnist for Newsofrwanda.He grew up in Kampala,Uganda before moving to Rwanda.His column is syndicated to newspapers around the country. He has written columns from Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Egypt, Israel and South Africa. Gahiji , who has a B.A. degree in English from the University of Illinois, has been a Poynter Media Fellow at Yale University,