A top Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) envoy says Congolese are excited about the prospects of peace following reports the government in Kinshasa will sign a peace deal with M23 rebels on Monday.
Bene M’Poko, DRC’s ambassador to South Africa, says the administration also plans to reinforce security along its borders to protect unarmed civilians from the attacks by other armed groups. He attributed the country’s conflict to those who want to keep the DRC from benefiting from its vast natural resources.
“We have had this war,” said M’Poko, “because of people who [want] to loot our resources. They were intent on destabilizing Congo so while we are busy fighting, they are looting [our] resources.” Resources, he added, that “would benefit the people of Congo, the continent and even the world because as you know the region is rich in rare [earth] minerals, rich in oil rich in tourism and rich in everything.”
He said Congo’s military should be able to guard the country’s porous borders, which allow armed groups to enter – often at will – from neighboring countries.
“The Congolese army is matured now. What was lacking was an effective command structure so we have restructured the command structure. So with now a matured Congolese army reorganized, restructured, we are able to protect our borders,” said M’Poko. “[It’s] our duty to protect our borders so nobody will come in to destabilize us again. We are saying enough is enough and we have to take responsibility to protect our people.”
Both the DRC government and the rebel M23 say they will sign a peace deal in Uganda’s capital, Kampala Monday following months of negotiations.
M’Poko outlined its significance.
“It means a lot to the Congolese people, to the government of Congo and to the Africans and to the international community because everybody has invested so heavily in reaching this peace agreement,” said M’Poko. “We are very excited about it because it is about time we ended that war, that nonsense, so that we can concentrate on the business of developing our region.”
The pact follows the M23 group’s announcement that they were laying down their arms, after military forces drove them from their remaining strongholds. It also comes after African heads of state and government called for an end in the DRC conflict following their meeting in South Africa’s capital, Pretoria.
Ambassador M’Poko said the administration in Kinshasa is working with international aid groups including the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) to assist victims who were displaced during the conflict.
“Since we will be considered a post-conflict country, [it] means that we need to mobilize humanitarian assistance.” said M’Poko.