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DRC Rebels Blame Government for Talks ‘Breakdown’

  • Peter Clottey

M23 rebel leader Bertrand Bisimwa (C) is seen in a March 7, 2013, file photo.

M23 rebel leader Bertrand Bisimwa (C) is seen in a March 7, 2013, file photo.

The leader of the rebel M23 group says the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) government is to blame for the breakdown of peace talks being held in neighboring Uganda.

The talks followed an agreement by leaders in the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) to help end the violence in the eastern part of the DRC.

“The government of Kinshasa is not on the ground in Kampala, [their] officials went back to Kinshasa and we don’t know why. But our delegation is in Kampala and we are waiting for the government of Kinshasa to come, and we think that if they come we can continue with the talks,” said Bertrand Bisimwa, leader of the M23 rebels.

He says members of his group are frustrated with the DRC government’s lack of commitment to the talks.

Bisimwa says the M23 wants amnesty for all its fighters, but the government has yet to meet their demands.

“When the government of Kinshasa says that it can’t give amnesty to us, it means that it doesn’t want peace in the country,” continued Bisimwa. “If the government says it doesn’t want to implement a program of reconstruction of the eastern Congo, this is a big problem. If the government says it can’t integrate our forces into the national army, this is a big problem. We think that they will change their position if they want peace in our country.”

Bisimwa made his comments after the rebel group reduced its delegation at the peace talks in Uganda to just two people, but denied it has abandoned negotiations with the government.

The two sides have been talking to the Ugandan facilitator, but their meetings with him have recently decreased in frequency.

Bisimwa also denied his rebel group receives support from Uganda and Rwanda.

“When the government is not able to resolve problems [in] society they [point] to someone or some country to accuse [them] to be the causes of their incapacity to resolve the problem of the people; we are not surprised by this accusation,” said Bisimwa.

In March, the United Nations Security Council authorized a special “intervention brigade” to pursue armed groups in the eastern part of the DRC as part of its peacekeeping operation. The intervention brigade consists of more than 3,000 troops from Tanzania, South Africa and Malawi, operating as part of the U.N. mission MONUSCO, but with a stronger mandate to attack the rebels.

But Bisimwa says the government appeared disinterested in the peace talks after the United Nations announced the imminent arrival of the new intervention brigade.

“Even when we were talking in Kampala, they went to the United Nations to bring the brigade against us again. It means that they don’t need peace in our country. They need only a victory [over] M23, not peace for our people,” he said.