Maputo — The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has condemned the latest military offensive in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by the M23 rebel group, which led to the seizure on Tuesday of the eastern town of Goma.
A statement from SADC describes the assault on Goma as “an act of aggression which undermines the regional and international efforts towards resolving the conflict in that part of the country”.
SADC demanded “the immediate withdrawal of the M23 from Goma, the cessation of any further hostilities by the M23 and that its members immediately and permanently disband and lay down their arms”.
The SADC statement stresses that “the current conflict can still be solved through collective dialogue”. It calls on “all parties involved in this conflict to allow a peaceful and durable solution”.
SADC promises that it will continue collaborating with the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) in “making all efforts to find the way forward in urgently addressing the matter”.
The statement does not mention by name either Rwanda or Uganda who have been repeatedly accused of supporting the M23.
This contrasts with the SADC heads of state summit in Maputo in August which blamed the upsurge of fighting on Rwanda and called on the Rwandan government “to cease immediately its interference that constitutes a threat to peace and stability, not only of the DRC, but of the SADC region”.
The summit mandated the new SADC chairperson, Mozambican President Armando Guebuza, to visit Rwanda in order “to engage the government of Rwanda with the aim or urging it to stop military support to armed rebels in the DRC”.
Guebuza visited Kigali on 28 August and held lengthy talks with Rwandan President Paul Kagame about the DRC crisis.
Kagame made no secret of his irritation at the strong criticism of Rwanda made by the SADC summit. “Obviously President Kagame did not like the SADC position”, said Guebuza, at a press coference after the meeting. “So he gave a more detailed explanation that will help us better understand the issue”.
Guebuza gave no details of the “more complete picture” painted by Kagame, on the grounds that he still had to consult with other SADC leaders.
Rwanda has continued to insist that it is not pulling the strings on the M23. But the United Nations, in a report issued in May, considered there was sufficient evidence that Rwanda was indeed involved.
The M23 shows no signs of heeding any international appeals. After taking Goma, M23 leaders boasted that they would march on the capital, Kinshasa – a distance of some 1,600 kilometres.