Africa: Former South African President Mbeki Says DR Congo Should Execute Sun City Agreement, Disarm FDLR Genocidal Forces

Former South African President Thabo Mbeki says the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo) should disarm genocidal forces who fled into Congolese territory after committing the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, in line with the Sun City Agreement signed between Kigali and Kinshasa in April 2003.

Mbeki said the disarmament of these negative forces under the existing Sun City Agreement can ensure peace and stability is achieved in eastern DR Congo. The agreement was signed in April 2003 in South Africa's casino resort, Sun City under the watchful eye of then United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan. It was seen as the solution to the problems besetting eastern DR Congo. But, Mbeki said, the agreement was, unfortunately, never implemented.

Former President Thabo Mbeki on the agreement that was signed by President Paul Kagame and Former DRC President Joseph Kabila. #sabcnews Sophie Mokoena (@Sophie_Mokoena) April 8, 2024

The former South African leader said implementation of the Sun City Agreement would bring a political solution to the instability in eastern DR Congo as the current framework does not work.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) deployed an intervention force to shore up the Congolese military, which is fighting alongside the genocidal FDLR militia, to subdue a Congolese rebel movement called the M23.

Former SA President Thabo Mbeki on the SADC force in the DRC. #sabcnews Sophie Mokoena (@Sophie_Mokoena) April 8, 2024

The FDLR, mostly comprising remnants of the perpetrators of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, are operating in eastern DR Congo where they are committing another genocide against Congolese Tutsi and trying to distabilise Rwanda in a bid to topple the government in Kigali.

The M23 is fighting to stop the killing and exclusion of the Congolese Tutsi from the eastern DR Congo.

Mbeki, who was in Kigali to attend the 30th commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi (Kwibuka 30), told South African journalists that the problems in the eastern DR Congo can be resolved in the event that the Congolese government implements the Sun City agreement and disarms the genocidal forces operating from its territory.

A political solution; only way to solve the problem

In response to an inquiry from South African journalists, Mbeki said: "I think you will remember that many, many years ago, as the government of South Africa we worked with the people of the Congo to prepare for a return to democratic. Remember negotiations that took place in Sun City. So, in that sense we were dealing with many challenges of the Congo including the situation in the eastern Congo. One of the consequences of that is that 2002, 2003, we convened a meeting of (then Congolese) President Joseph Kabila and President Paul Kagame together with (then) secretary general of the UN Kofi Annan. There was a negotiation as to how these two countries should work together to deal with the matter in the eastern Congo and they signed an agreement.

"It's an existing agreement between (then) President Kabila and President Kagame which committed them that the Congolese government should make sure that it disarms and deal with all of the people who committed genocide in Rwanda and left for eastern Congo. They would disarm them and as a consequence Rwanda will withdraw its troops from eastern Congo. It's a signed agreement. The problem is that it was never implemented. That's exactly the basis for a political solution."

Added Mbeki: "It's already agreed by the two countries, signed by the presidents of the two countries witnessed by Kofi Annan when he was Secretary General of the UN. And we signed not just as South Africa as at the time I was also chairman of the African Union so there is an existing agreement and all it needs is its implementation. That's a political solution. That's the only way to solve the problem."

Earlier, before he left Kigali, South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa also agreed that a political solution is needed to end the crisis in eastern DR Congo where his country deployed thousands of troops as part of a SADC. Ramaphosa, who was also in Rwanda for the 30th commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, faced criticism after he approved the deployment of 2,900 troops to eastern DR Congo to fight alongside a Congolese government-led coalition that includes the FDLR.

Mbeki said there was no other way outside the Sun City Agreement to resolve the security challenges affecting eastern DR Congo.

"There is no other way and that is why the presidents were quite willing to come and sit down and then sign an agreement to find a political solution to the problem. My argument is that; let's go back to that existing agreement and say the presidents of Rwanda and Congo must implement this thing which was signed. This matter can never be solved by military means, it can't be."

Back then, speaking at the signing ceremony, Kabila hailed the agreement, saying: "Today must be considered as a great day for the whole of Africa, one step more towards the sustainable development of the continent. The Congolese people, their government, and I are determined to live in harmony with the nine countries with which we share borders."

For his part, Kagame called the accord "a big step in the direction of resolving the conflict" in the DR Congo, Burundi, and Rwanda, among other countries.

"This agreement is important in many aspects, as it addresses two of the core issues that underlie conflict in the region - one, how to deal with the ex-FAR [former Rwandan armed forces] and Interahamwe and two, it paves the way for the withdrawal of forces who are involved in this conflict from the DRC."

The peace agreement committed the Congolese government to locating and disarming Rwandan Interahamwe militias and ex-FAR - the forces responsible for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda who remain active in DR Congo.

The situation in eastern DR Congo is a major human rights challenge for the international community, Rwanda's Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Dr. Vincent Biruta, told a high-level segment of the Human Rights Council, in Geneva, on March 2, 2023.

Biruta reiterated that Rwanda remains committed to upholding its human rights obligations, as enshrined in the Constitution, and other national, regional, and international standards.

"We need to renew our joint commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and discuss frankly the challenges of politicization of human rights frameworks," the Minister added, also noting that the conflict eastern DR Congo was started by, and is the responsibility of, the Congolese government.

Biruta said: "It is a dishonest political stunt to turn a domestic conflict about the fundamental rights of Congolese citizens into an accusation against Rwanda, right here in the Human Rights Council."

Meanwhile, Mbeki hailed the progress Rwanda has made since 1994 saying: "I think the government and people of Rwanda have done very, very well in terms of recovery from the genocide. I am very glad that South Africa made its own contributions to all of this. It is very good progress and it must be sustained."

In his speech during Kwibuka 30, on April 7, President Paul Kagame also appreciated the "the tangible support" Rwanda has received from partners, including South Africa.

Kagame said: "A notable example of solidarity came to us from South Africa, one among many."

"If Rwanda can come out of a genocide and achieve the kind of progress that it has achieved, I think it says to all of us on the continent that whatever our problems nationally, if we do the right thing we can recover," Mbeki said.

Mbeki challenged the South African government to take a leaf from Rwanda's progress, saying South Africa was regressing.

He said: "There was a period when everything was moving very positively and then things changed and went the opposite direction. I think it's very important to understand that. It answers the question therefore, why are we not moving in the footsteps of Rwanda in terms of development and so on.

"We must answer that question ourselves as South Africans. Why are we not following the example of Rwanda which is going progressively very well? Why is South Africa going in the opposite direction?"

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