The New Times (Kigali)

23 November 2012

Central Africa: UK Backs Regional Stand On DR Congo

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister for Africa, Mark Simmonds, has backed the ongoing regional efforts to bring to an end crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Simmonds met President Paul Kagame at Village Urugwiro yesterday where they discussed the conflict in the neighbouring country.

"President Kagame and I had extremely positive discussions which centred on the implementations of the communiqué that was agreed on in Kampala yesterday [Wednesday], which provide for listening to the challenges that the M23 [rebels] represent and also finding a longer term strategy about how stability can be provided in eastern DRC," the UK minister told reporters after meeting the President.

President Kagame, Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni and President Joseph Kabila of DRC issued a joint statement, Wednesday, demanding the immediate withdrawal of the M23 rebels from Goma.

"There are things that need to be put in place; first is the immediate secession of the conflict taking place, the M23 backing out of Goma and the Congolese army taking control of Goma again," Simmonds said.

"M23 withdrawal from Goma is in line with both the United Nations Security Council resolutions made three days ago and a communiqué that was agreed on Wednesday by the Presidents of Rwanda, DRC and Uganda," the UK minister emphasised.

According to the communiqué, the DRC President committed to expeditiously address the grievances of the rebels.

Yesterday's meeting was attended by the Foreign Affairs Minister, Louise Mushikiwabo,

She said that in the wake of capturing Goma, it had become inevitable for the DRC government to open its ears and listen to M23, although she acknowledged that the rebel outfit pushing beyond Goma was wrong.

The M23 rebels on Tuesday threatened to precede with their offensive to other parts of DRC, after capturing Goma, the provincial capital of the North Kivu province in the country's restive east.

"Discussions with Minister Simmonds were positive and the UK has always been a friend to Rwanda. On the issue of DRC, it has become evident that the only solution is for peace talks between the government of Congo and M23," Mushikiwabo said.

"I will emphasise that the problem in DRC is not just with the M23 because they are not the only rebels operating in the country. Therefore, the deep lying source of conflict in the country should be dealt with, and only through peace talks will it work".

M23 is led by mutinying soldiers who rose up eight months ago, contending that DRC's government violated a 2009 peace deal that was meant to integrate them into the army.

Simmonds is also expected to hold exclusive talks with Kinshasa's government on the issue and attend the ICGLR Heads of State and Government Summit on DRC taking place in Kampala this week.

ICGLR, or the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region, comprises 11 regional countries. Uganda's President Museveni is the current chairperson.

During his visit to Rwanda, Simmonds paid tribute to over 250,000 victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi laid to rest at Kigali Memorial Centre.

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