25 February 2013

Southern Africa: SADC Will Continue Assisting Peace in DRC - Guebuza

Maputo — Mozambican President Armando Guebuza on Sunday pledged that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) will continue working for a sustainable solution to the crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Guebuza, who is the current chairperson of SADC, was speaking in Addis Ababa, at the signing of an agreement on the DRC between11 southern and central African states. The agreement is aimed at ending all outside interference in the DRC’s internal affairs.

Guebuza pledged that SADC “will continue to do its best to help this sister nation recover the conditions necessary for leading the country to social and economic development”.

He warned that the agreement is not, in itself, a solution to the Congolese crisis – rather, it was an important step “to help this country turn a new page in its turbulent history, which everyone would like to see relegated to the past”.

The Sunday agreement, Guebuza said, should complement the efforts undertaken by SADC, the United Nations and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR). The DRC is a member of both SADC and the ICGLR.

The Mozambican leader said there were two aspects to the DRC’s problems - internal, notably in terms of the management of the Congolese armed forces, and outside interference by other countries in the region.

He urged the Congolese to capitalise on this “historic opportunity”, by deepening mutual trust, seeking consensus wherever necessary, and embarking on pragmatic and constructive compromises that can carry the political process forward.

Notably absent from Addis Ababa were the M23 movement or any of the other rebel groups operating in the east of the DRC. Guebuza did not believe this undermined the agreement, since negotiations are already under way in Kampala between the Congolese government and the M23, under the mediation of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

Speaking to the Mozambican journalists who accompanied him to Addis Ababa, Guebuza recalled that the steps leading to this agreement began last August at the SADC summit in Maputo, which denounced Rwanda for supporting the M23, and mandated Guebuza to visit Rwanda, and meet with Rwandan President Paul Kagame in order to understand the Rwandan role in the conflict.

Guebuza was optimistic about the agreement since it was signed by all the countries directly interested in the political and security situation in the DRC, and because the United Nations publicly pledged to review the mandate for UN forces in the DRC so that they would be more active.

He stressed that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has shown that he will do everything in his power to ensure the success of the agreement.

The signatories to the agreement were the DRC itself, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Central African Republic, Angola, Congo-Brazzaville, South Sudan, South Africa, Zambia and Tanzania.

Also signing the document were Guebuza for SADC, Ban Ki-moon for the UN, the President of the African Union Commission, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and the Deputy President of Uganda, Edward Ssekandi, for the ICGLR. Ssekandi represented Yoweri Museveni, who was unable to attend because of the death of his father.

The key clause in the agreement commits all the signatories not to interfere in the internal affairs of the DRC, and not to tolerate or support Congolese armed groups. Two of the signatories, Rwanda and Uganda, were accused last year, in a UN report, of backing the M23. Both denied the claims.

In his speech to the ceremony, Ban Ki-moon described the agreement as “only the beginning of a comprehensive approach that will require sustained engagement.

The framework before you outlines commitments and oversight mechanisms which aim at addressing key national and regional issues”.

Ban said he would shortly be issuing a report on the DRC and the Great Lakes region which “will outline my proposal for a new comprehensive approach to addressing the underlying causes of the conflict”.

This would include “a strengthened political and security role” for the UN mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), “including the deployment of an intervention brigade with a peace enforcement mandate”.

Kagame also spoke, and suggested that the real problems in the DRC were internal, and did not cone from outside. “The framework recognizes that a holistic approach that addresses the multifaceted root causes is the only way to end instability”, he said. “Any meaningful contribution toward lasting peace in the DRC and the Great Lakes region has to abandon the self-defeating practice of selectivity in both memory and responsibility regarding the known, long standing causes of recurring conflict”.

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