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UN Great Lakes Envoy to Address Rwanda Role in DRC Crisis

  • Gabe Joselow

U.N. Special Envoy to the Great Lakes region Mary Robinson (R) flanked by U.N. special envoy to Congo Martin Kobler (L) address a news conference at the MONUSCO offices in Goma, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Sept. 2, 2013.

U.N. Special Envoy to the Great Lakes region Mary Robinson (R) flanked by U.N. special envoy to Congo Martin Kobler (L) address a news conference at the MONUSCO offices in Goma, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Sept. 2, 2013.

The United Nations envoy to the Great Lakes region says she will be direct with Kigali about evidence of Rwandan support for the M23 rebels in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Mary Robinson also hopes the recent military advances against the rebels will create a window for a political solution to the crisis

Robinson arrived Monday in Goma, the economic hub of eastern DRC, as part of a diplomatic tour of the region. Her visit follows nearly two weeks of fighting between Congolese armed forces and the M23 rebels on the outskirts of the city. She is due to attend a September 5 summit in Kampala of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region [ICGLR], which will bring together regional leaders to discuss the conflict.

Rwanda, a member of the conference, has been accused of supporting the M23 rebels, a group made up of former rebel soldiers who defected from the Congolese army last year.

Direct talks

Speaking to reporters in Goma, Robinson said she is prepared to address the issue directly with Rwanda. “I do not say one thing in Goma and another thing in Rwanda. I say tough things, especially to people who need to hear those tough things directly. And I am prepared to speak very truthfully, but also to continue to engage with Rwanda, because that is my role and my responsibility,” she said.

The U.N. Group of Experts has published evidence linking Rwanda to the rebels, and the United States has called on Kigali to end its support. Rwanda has repeatedly denied any ties to M23.

Other foreign envoys, including Boubacar Diarra of the African Union and Russ Feingold from the United States, are due to join Robinson on her tour of the region, which includes a stop in Rwanda.

MONUSCO muscle

A new U.N. intervention brigade, part of the U.N. peacekeeping force MONUSCO, was seen as being instrumental in helping the Congolese army push the rebels to beyond striking distance from Goma.

Robinson said she supports MONUSCO’s aggressive operations, which she sees as having opened up a chance for dialogue.

“What I see as being valuable is that there is now potentially a window for the political discussions,” she said.

Robinson also said she would like to see the renewal of the Kampala talks between the Congolese government and M23. Those talks fell apart as fighting intensified during the past few months.

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