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October 22, 2012

M23 Rebels Claim Indirect Talks with Kinshasa

by James Butty

A spokesman for the M23 rebels, who are fighting the Congolese government in the east of the country, said the government of President Joseph Kabila is losing the fight and, therefore, has no choice but to negotiate with the rebels.  

Amani Babu said representatives of the rebels and Kinshasa are involved in indirect negotiations in Kampala, through the mediation efforts of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.  

M23 deputy spokesman Babu also denied that the rebels have threatened to resume fighting if the government refuses to negotiate directly with them.

“As I told you, we are right now in Kampala in negotiations with the government of Kinshasa.  As you know, we are negotiating through his Excellency, [President] Yoweri Museveni,” he said.

Babu said a DRC government delegation is also in the Ugandan capital to give its negotiating points to the Ugandan president, who would in turn give them to the M23 rebels.

He said the rebels and government representatives hope to meet face-to-face sometime this week.

“We feel that we will meet next week because the first step was just the evaluation of the agreement of 23 March, and we have finished with the evaluation.  Now, we are waiting for the government to come in Kampala so we can meet and sit at the table and discuss [it] face-to-face,” Babu said.

But, Congolese government spokesman Lambert Mende said the Kabila government does not negotiate with what he called murderers. 

Butty interview with Babu

He said the rebels were called to the Ugandan capital to be told of the impending deployment of the International Neutral Force to neutralize the volatile eastern part of the DRC.

Babu said Kinshasa has no choice but to negotiate with the rebels because the M23 is superior when it comes to fighting.

“They don’t have any choice because, militarily, they can’t fight the M23. Since 2003, we have been fighting, but we didn’t get any solution.  We think that the solution will only come through dialogue,” Babu said.

A leaked confidential U.N. report last week accused Uganda and Rwanda of backing the M23 rebels.  Both countries have denied supporting the rebellion.

Babu also denied vehemently that the M23 is being supported by Uganda and Rwanda.

“This is ridiculous. We can’t understand that, three months ago, the president of Uganda asked us to end the fighting.  How can Museveni ask us to stop fighting and how can Museveni give us soldiers,” Babu said.

He said the leaked UN report was compiled based on rumors.

“Those experts, they did their report according to rumors.  How can experts do a report based on rumors?” Babu said.

He said the rebels have confidence in the leaders of the Great Lakes region to find a peaceful solution to the conflict because, when it comes to fighting, the M23 will defeat Congolese government forces.