9 December 2012

Southern Africa: SADC Effort to Solve Eastern DRC Conflict Goes Top-Notch

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

THE Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) resolve to solve the conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) went a notch higher on Saturday with the heads of SADC Troika on Peace, Defence and Security vowing that they would not rest until a lasting solution to the conflict is realised.

"I want to inform SADC that we will not rest until peace is restored in eastern DRC," the current chair of SADC Troika on Peace, Defence and Security, President Jakaya Kikwete, told the SADC Extraordinary Summit that met under the chairmanship of Mozambican President Armando Guebuza.

He said they had met on Friday to discuss increased violence and refugee situation emerging in that part of DRC and was glad that SADC has taken precise action to check the situation. Addressing the members in his capacity as Chairperson of National Conference on Great Lakes region, Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni cautioned that the neutral forces being sent to Congo should not tolerate co-existing with rebels as it would hamper efforts to find a lasting solution to the conflict.

Using his experience of the region for 50 years, he said the current security problems in the Congo were in two categories; one where it affects its people and neighbours and the other which is strictly internal. He said DRC has for years been used by rebel groups to attack neighbouring countries, noting that it was former President Mobutu Sese Seko's policy to destabilise neighbouring countries.

But today, he said, Congo was being used by the same rebel groups, but this time by default since it was not President Joseph Kabila's policy to destabilise its neighbours. He said the late Mobutu had started a programme to reject some Congolese, terming them as non-Congolese.

He, however, mentioned the third problem as 'Eurocentric,' where international groups decide to intervene in Congo issues without knowing exactly what the real causes of the conflict are. "The further you are away from the problem, the easier it is for you to be fed lies," he said.

He said that they should resolve that if there is a problem in Africa, the first ones to intervene should be the national parties involved, then the region bodies and subsequently the international community as the last resort. "We should avoid the mismatch where the international community comes in without consulting the region. They bring in forces that have no impact in solving the problem.

It is a sort of military tourism," he said "I told UN's Ban Ki moon that what you are doing in Congo is a big terrorist conservation project, because you have this huge force of 17,000 on the ground, yet they are living side by side with these terrorist groups.

Some of these groups have even stayed for over 10 years, yet the UN forces are on the ground," he said. Sharing an example of the Uganda Forces engagement in Somalia, he said that when they went to Somalia, they were told that they have no mandate and their only role was to guard the airport and State House, but eventually, the Al Shabab began shooting at them with no provocation, but could not retaliate on grounds that they had no mandate.

"But then we reflected and realized we had to retaliate and teach them a lesson," he said. "Congo is being used as a breeding ground for terrorism; so we have agreed with SADC to send a neutral force to Congo under the auspices of the UN. But this time, we must ensure that we do not cohabit with these terrorist groups, living peacefully side by side with them," he said.

"The people of Congo are suffering. In just one week, I was just reading intelligence reports yesterday, 15 people have been killed in Ituri Forest and not by M23 but by another terrorist group in the region." "The neutral force should come and help people in Congo and also relieve the region of this constant pressure," he said.

Earlier, President Kikwete said the Troika has charted ways of solving the impasse in Madagascar, further hinting that efforts were underway to conclude the constitution process in time for next year's general elections in Zimbabwe. He asked the SADC Summit to urge the parties in Zimbabwe to expedite the process due to the time factor since the elections are drawing closer.

"We should continue to appeal for responsive political will," he said He said his SADC organ was ready to intensify efforts to ensure peace in the region, adding that Tanzania believes that a secure SADC is in the best interests of the people.

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