6 December 2012

Uganda: Kudos Uganda for DR Congo Peace Effort

Photo: Kate Holt/IRIN
Displaced families living in Mugunga camp, in Goma.


With M23 rebels withdrawing from previously captured Goma last week and peace talks between them and Kinshasa set to commence in Kampala, Uganda can afford to feel proud of the efforts championed by President Museveni to restore peace and stability in the Democratic Republic of Congo's volatile eastern region. At a time the hitherto unstable Great Lakes region is trying to put the past behind and embark on development, the DRC remains the 'sick man' of the region. Vast parts of the vast country, especially in the eastern part, are not under the central government authority, which has led to a vacuum filled by retrogressive militias and rebels.

Yet when eastern Congo sneezes, the wider region catches a cold as exemplified by rebels opposed to Rwanda and Uganda governments finding safe haven there and refugees pouring into the neighbouring countries whenever conflict erupts.

Thus the region, under the auspices of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), had to intervene to end the latest fighting. Uganda, which has taken the lead in that effort, has herself been accused of supporting the M23 rebels, an allegation vehemently denied by Kampala, and which we're not in position to verify.

However, prevailing on the rebels to leave Goma and bringing the warring parties to the negotiating table suggest that Uganda is interested in peace in the region. This limited breakthrough also underlines the importance of regional initiatives when it comes to conflict resolution.

From Burundi to South Sudan to Somalia, success has been achieved only through regional efforts. Perhaps this should persuade the UN to review its largely ineffective peacekeeping mission (MONUSCO) and instead work with regional governments to initiate a more pragmatic plan that will ensure lasting peace in eastern DRC.

Hopefully the peace talks will provide an opportunity for the region to come up with a comprehensive framework through which to address the root causes of armed conflict in eastern DRC as it will be a shame to end one conflict only for another to emerge a few months down the road.

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