21 November 2012

Central Africa: Uganda Mediates in Rwanda-Congo Crisis Meet

Hundreds of government soldiers and police in the Democratic Republic of Congo have surrendered to rebels at a stadium in Goma. ( Resource: DR Congo Troops Surrender to Rebels )

President Yoweri Museveni last evening convened a crisis meeting with President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic of Congo (DRC) over the crisis in DRC, hours after M23 rebels overrun the mineral-rich city of Goma.

Diplomatic sources said before they met their host, who is also chairman of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), Kabila and Kagame held private talks at Speke Resort Munyonyo in Kampala.

The presidents' meeting came on the heels of an earlier one in the day by ministers of the 11 member countries of the ICGLR also convened at Munyonyo on Lake Victoria's shores, to discuss the deteriorating situation in DRC.

The M23 has no representative at the Kampala meeting. "The M23 presence in Kampala is not necessary. Their issues are already well known so it's up to Kabila to say 'I agree to this or that and I don't agree with that'," said Asuman Kiyingi, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs.

Before travelling to Uganda, President Kabila made a televised address to his nation, mobilising the citizens to rise up and defend the country's sovereignty. The outcome of the presidents' meeting hadn't been established by press time.

This is the first high-profile regional meeting since the October leaked UN report of experts, which accused Uganda and Rwanda of supporting Congolese rebels.

Both governments contested the document with Uganda threatening to pull its troops from peacekeeping operations in Somalia unless the UN allegations are withdrawn.

On Tuesday, Rwanda urged the M23 and the DRC government to desist from further hostilities that have harmful repercussions not only on Congolese citizens but on Rwandan civilians in the border areas.

Rwanda foreign minister Louise Mushikiwabo said political dialogue was more important than ever after the fall of Goma to M23. She said that recent events should refocus attention and commitment to the on-going ICGLR process.

"What happened in Goma is a clear indication that the military option has failed to bring about a solution to this crisis and that political dialogue is the only way to resolve the ongoing conflict," she said.

"Rwanda is fully committed to the peace process under ICGLR and we continue to work with member states in the interest of durable peace in our region," said the minister.

Speaking in Kampala, Mushikiwabo pointed out that there has to be a new approach to ensure that there is no further deterioration in the current situation.

"By focussing on the blame game and ignoring the root causes of conflict in the DRC, the international community has missed the opportunity to help the DRC restore peace and security for its citizens and bring about much needed stability in the Great Lakes Region. We just cannot afford to continue along a path that has failed to produce results," she added.

Rwanda she said will continue to work closely with UN agencies and other partners in the country to provide and facilitate humanitarian assistance to those affected by recent events.

On Sunday, UN Chief Ban Ki Moon and President Museveni discussed the DRC conflict. According to UN peacekeeping spokesperson Kieran Dwyer, the President told Ban that he had spoken to the M23 rebels and called for calm.

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