22 December 2012

Congo-Kinshasa: DRC Govt, M23 Talks Adjourned

Photo: UNHCR
Displaced (file photo).

PRELIMINARY peace talks between the DRC government and the M23 rebels were adjourned yesterday without an agreement on the latter's request for a formal ceasefire.

The mediator in the preliminary talks, Uganda's Minister of Defence Dr Crispus Kiyonga, announced that the negotiations would resume after the festive season - on January 4, 2013.

But Kiyonga told reporters, yesterday, that substantial progress had been registered on operationalisation of the rules of procedure - for substantial talks.

Congo's Foreign Minister Raymond Tshibanda is heading the DRC delegation, while M23's Executive Secretary, Francois Rucogoza, is the chief rebel negotiator.

Kiyonga said that as the talks break off, clusters to compose the agenda for the dialogue had been agreed.

These include; review of the 23rd March 2009 agreement (that ended an earlier rebellion); security issues; social, economic and political matters; as well as the mechanism for implementation of various resolutions.

"Despite this substantial progress, consensus still needs to be reached on one item of the draft agenda of the dialogue within the security sector," the minister said.

"This item relates to the need to consolidate the current lull in military hostilities."

Rucogoza told The New Times earlier this week that both delegations agreed on the agenda and ground rules of the talks but the issue of ceasefire appeared unacceptable to Kinshasa.

The talks are being held under the auspices of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), a regional grouping composed of 12 countries, including DRC, Uganda and Rwanda.

"The DRC government is refusing to sign a ceasefire and this implies that they want war," he told The New Times.

"The delegation argues that it doesn't have powers to sign it and we are wondering what this means," he said.

The M23 official accused Kinshasa of amassing troops around Goma, a city the rebels withdrew from weeks ago under an ICGLR deal, which also required demilitarisation of Goma and surrounding areas.

DRC is also said to have reinforced military presence in Masisi, Kaluba Mushachi, raising fears of resumption of hostilities in a region dogged by conflict in decades.

The talks in Kampala attracted observers from African Union, Belgium, the European Union, France, Norway, UK, Northern Ireland, US and the UN Mission in Congo (Monusco).

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