21 January 2013

Africa: Continent Wants Command of DR Congo Force

African countries should not lose the command and control of the proposed Neutral International Force (NIF) to be deployed in Congo, according to Uganda's minister of defence Dr. Crispus Kiyonga.

During a meeting of army and their political heads on Sunday at Imperial Royale hotel in Kampala, Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and Southern Africa (SADC) military chiefs, Kiyonga said that African countries should be given command and not be placed under the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo MONUSCO.

Minister Kiyonga said this is also the view of President Museveni who chairs ICGLR and it has been expressed to France, UK, US and General Babacar Gaye the military adviser to UN secretary general.

There has been criticism of MONUSCO which has been in DR Congo for 12 years and has been largely ineffective in preventing conflict in eastern DRC, with President Museveni branding them as "military tourists" bent on sustaining the regional conflicts so that they continue earning from them.

Kiyong added, "Our Heads of State want to operate independent of foreign control because the situation has been there even with the UN (peacekeepers') presence. If we don't keep our line of thinking clear and firm, the opportunity can be lost."

Kiyonga however said that the lack of money by African nations as well as international law obliges African countries to work with other institutions such as the UN.

"But we have to get money without trading our control. This is the road we have to walk. The region must maintain visibility, control and accountability as we move to work with UN," he added.

MONUSCO has a total of 19,000 men in DR Congo, while the proposed African Union Neutral International Force is expected to number 4,000 troops, with funding from the UN.

Already, Tanzania has offered to contribute a battalion to the neutral international force, with other troops expected to come from other SADC member countries.

Minister Kiyonga however said the troop numbers of the proposed neutral international force may need to be reassessed to counter the rebels who are recruiting more fighters.

The meeting was attended by several military chiefs from the ICGLR and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) member countries of Angola, Rwanda, Zambia, Burundi, Mozambique, Congo, Central African Republic, Sudan and South Sudan. Others are Kenya, South Africa, Namibia and Tanzania.

Kiyonga also briefed participants on the ongoing talks between the DRC Government and the M23 rebels, in which he is the chief facilitator.

Prof. Ntumba Luaba, the executive secretary of ICGLR said it is time to get rid of negative forces and armed groups that have brought suffering, looting, sexual aggression and created a bad image for the Great Lakes region.

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