The New Times (Kigali)

7 January 2013

Congo-Kinshasa: AU Summit to Discuss DRC Crisis

The Commissioner for Peace and Security of the African Union, Lamtane Ramamra, has said the upcoming AU summit will focus on the ongoing crisis in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

African Heads of State and Government are expected to meet in Ethiopia later this month for the 20th summit of the African Union.

Ramamra, who arrived in Rwanda from DRC on Friday for a four-day visit disclosed this after visiting Ntarama Genocide memorial site, where he paid tribute to Genocide victims before visiting Rwanda Military Academy, Gako in Bugesera district, yesterday.

As part of his visit to Rwanda, the diplomat met with several governemnt officials, including politicians and military officers with whom they discussed a range of issues, mainly focused on DRC and Rwanda's role in peacekeeping missions.

"I am learning a lot about the crisis in the Eastern DRC which will help us to contribute as AU to resolve the underlying causes of the conflicting situation in this region. And also for us to be in a better position to interact with the UN and other key partners especially as we prepare for the AU summit which will largely focus on eastern DRC and the way to promote peace and stability in the Great Lakes region," he said.

Ramamra, however, refrained from divulging details of his discussions with the Rwandan officials.

But, he said his visit mainly focused on how to improve the situation in the Eastern DRC, including the progress of the peace talks going on in Kampala, Uganda which resumed last week.

The M23 rebels started fighting in April, last year, the rebels later captured Goma, but pulled out after the Kinshasa government agreed to hold talks with them. Several options have since been considered to restore peace is the war torn country, including the deployment of a Neutral International Force.

Deploying neutral force

According to Ramamra, the AU is looking forward to deployment of the Neutral Force and finding ways how it will work with the United Nations Mission for the stabilisation of DRC (MONUSCO), so that both forces can work together efficiently and make an impact on the ground.

Without mentioning the dates, Ramamra said that the senior staffs and the commander of the Neutral Force are likely to be deployed 'in a matter of days.'

"We are also looking at developing a political framework that would assist all countries concerned in addressing the root causes of the situation and making sure that we succeed in coming up with a lasting and final solution," he said.

When asked to comment on whether the UN Security Council sanctions against the M23 rebel leaders could affect the peace talks he said.

"I believe that the sooner the discussion in Kampala reaches a successful conclusion the better because that would give a strong and healthy foundation to move forward and look at the lasting security arrangements and more importantly to the political framework... the Security Council is a master of its own programmes and agendas but on the AU level we believe we need synergies and we are certainly convinced that our next AU summit will give the right path to this process."

Meanwhile, Ramamra commended Rwanda's contribution to international peace through the provision of peacekeeping forces.

Rwanda is the sixth largest contributor of peacekeepers to the UN, with about 3,200 soldiers in the United Nations African Union Hybrid Mission in Darfur, (UNAMID) and 850 in South Sudan under the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

The country also maintains about 500 police officers deployed in Haiti, Liberia, Sierra Leon, Sudan, and South Sudan and Ivory Coast.

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