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DRC Goma Residents Worry Over Peace Talks’ Suspension

  • Peter Clottey

M23 rebel negotiators are seen heading into the final leg of negotiations with the Congolese government, in Kampala October 19, 2013.

M23 rebel negotiators are seen heading into the final leg of negotiations with the Congolese government, in Kampala October 19, 2013.

Residents in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) North Kivu province fear a resumption of violent clashes following the suspension of peace talks between the government and the M23 rebels.

Fidel Bafilemba, a leading member of an umbrella groups of NGO’s, says the public appears to have lost confidence in Kinshasa’s ability to protect lives and property.

Bafilemba said residents in North Kivu province, especially in the capital Goma, fear the resurgence of violence between the two sides.

“Since day one of the talks in Kampala, people have had doubts. [Many fear they are] opaque, not transparent,” said Bafilemba. “Given the military buildup today, people are very afraid, and they fear that the war might break out again.”

Peace talks mediated by neighboring Uganda were suspended following disagreements over an amnesty for the rebels and their integration into the Congolese national army, the FARDC.

Bafilemba said residents in North Kivu province as well as the surrounding areas are skeptical there will be peace.

“Unfortunately, that has been the reality and the reality of any deal with the [government] supported by foreign countries. Instead of [relying] on the Congolese people, they would rather rely on people from far away who often turn against them. So, nobody believes in this process,” said Bafilemba.

The government in Kinshasa as well as the United Nations has accused both Rwanda and Uganda for supporting armed groups in DRC. But, both sharply deny the accusation.

Bafilemba said it was wrong for Uganda to mediate the talks because Kampala is accused by some of supporting armed groups in the DRC.

“Kampala and Kigali were all implicated in supporting this war and having Kampala being the mediator of this process is making it the judge, [participant] and jury at the same time. So no genuine Congolese whether they are Tutsi or Hutu or other communities have ever really believed in this process,” said Bafilemba.

He also said residents seem to lack confidence in the United Nations forces (MONUSCO) in the country. The Security Council mandated that they protect unarmed civilians and pursue armed groups who attack unarmed civilians.

“I think people are more inclined to watch what MONUSCO is going to do but I don’t believe people have faith in [it]. They think MONUSCO is just there to manage expectations,” said Bafilemba.
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