8 January 2013

Congo-Kinshasa: M23 Declare Ceasefire and Caution Kinshasa

Photo: Sylvain Liechti/UN
Fleeing conflict (file photo).

Last night, the Eastern DRC mutiny M23 declared a ceasefire and called on Kinshasa to follow suit.

Addressing the press in Kampala, the leader of the rebel group's representatives who are in talks with the DRC government in the Ugandan capital, Francois Rucogoza (who is also the M23 executive secretary), said that the M23 couldn't force the Congolese government to sign a permanent ceasefire but as a responsible government, it would be the right thing to do.

The M23 executive secretary said President Kabila's dillydallying in signing a truce was a clear indication that he was nursing a hidden agenda but this would not change their own position which is aimed at bringing peace to the volatile Eastern Congo. He added that the M23 rebels are willing to continue with the peace talks despite the Kinshasa government refusing to sign the peace accord.

Rucogoza observed that the fact that M23 left Goma, a city they captured last year, in the interest of seeking peaceful solutions to the Eastern DRC crisis. "We left Goma to come for negotiations and that's a clear indication that we are ready for peace."

Last week, the M23 leader Jean-Marie Runiga threatened to order his delegation to pull out of Kampala if DRC didn't agree to stop hostilities.

Rucogozo also warned the DRC government against deploying FDLR combatants on the frontlines, saying that would be considered a provocation. "We are pressing on and hope that within a short time the Kinshasa government will resolve and sign the agreement," he said.

The rebels have been holding talks with the Congolese government in Kampala under the auspices of the ICGLR chairman, President Yoweri Museveni. The rebel group's determination to quit the trenches in the pursuit of peace is a big challenge to Kinshasa which has been accused of being hell bent on fighting the rebels.

There have been reports of Angolan troops being deployed in several towns to reinforce DRC operations against M23.

The rebels accused the government of not honoring part of the bargain in the 2009 peace agreement that led to their integration into the national army, FARDC. They accuse the government of discrimination in the army, low wages and falling short of extension of social services to Kivu.

The declaration of a ceasefire raises the hope that the Eastern DRC conflict may come to a peaceful resolution that has been backed by leaders of the ICGLR.

Surveillance drones

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told the Security Council during a closed-door session that the U.N mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo plans to deploy three unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones, for surveillance in the eastern DRC. Yet according to the agency, Rwanda opposes the move until there is a full assessment of their use.

The United Nations has wanted surveillance drones for eastern Congo since 2008. Alan Doss, the former head of the U.N. peacekeeping force there at the time asked the Security Council for helicopters, drones and other items to improve real-time intelligence gathering. The request was never met, but the idea generated new interest last year after M23 rebels began taking over large swathes of eastern Congo.

The spokesman for the French U.N. mission, Brieuc Pont, said in a statement on France's Twitter feed: "MONUSCO needs additional, modern assets, including drones, to be better informed and more reactive."

Council diplomats said the United States, Britain and other council members were also supportive of the idea of using drones in eastern Congo.

Rwanda, which has a non-permanent seat in the Securtiy Council, however made clear it considered Ladsous' call for deploying drones premature. "It is not wise to use a device on which we don't have enough information," Olivier Nduhungirehe, Rwanda's deputy U.N. ambassador, told Reuters. "Africa shall not become a laboratory for intelligence devices from overseas."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is expected to submit a report to the Security Council in the coming weeks recommending ways of improving the U.N. force in Congo, known as MONUSCO.

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