News / Africa

Great Lakes Leaders Seek Solution to DRC Crisis

From left, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Central African Republic President Michel Djotodia attend Heads of States and Governments International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, Nairobi, July 31, 2013.
From left, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Central African Republic President Michel Djotodia attend Heads of States and Governments International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, Nairobi, July 31, 2013.
Gabe Joselow
Leaders from the Great Lakes region are calling for greater cooperation to bring peace to the Democratic Republic of Congo, as accusations of interference by neighboring countries continue to fly.
 
Regional heads of state met in Nairobi Wednesday to build on a framework agreement signed by members of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) in February, which outlines steps to advance regional peace efforts — including a pledge not to interfere in the internal affairs of neighboring countries.
 
This pledge is under the spotlight in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where U.N. peacekeepers are increasing pressure on M23 rebels.
 
The United Nations, rights groups and some western countries have accused Rwanda and Uganda of supporting rebel groups in the DRC, including M23.
 
U.N. Special Representative to the Great Lakes, Mary Robinson, told the summit she hopes this meeting will lead to an end for that support.
 
"The activities in support of armed groups by different signatory parties to the framework are contrary to the spirit and intent of the framework and must stop," she said.
 
Rwanda and Uganda, both ICGLR members, deny accusations of supporting rebels.
 
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who is also current ICGLR chairman, said it is up to Congolese government officials to stop insecurity in the country.
 
"Unfortunately the DRC has not created an army to effectively control its territory to guarantee internal security and to guarantee its territory is not used by negative forces to destabilize her neighbors," he said.
 
For the past few weeks, the Congolese army has been on the offensive against M23 rebels, who briefly seized the city of Goma last year and continue to control territory in eastern Congo.
 
The U.N. peacekeeping mission in the Congo, known as MONUSCO, has been providing support to the army and is deploying a new brigade with a mandate to take offensive action against rebel groups, including M23.
 
On Tuesday, MONUSCO issued a statement calling for armed groups in Goma and the northern suburbs to hand in their weapons, mentioning repeated attacks by M23 against army positions.
 
Speaking to VOA Wednesday, Bertrand Bisimwa, president of M23, questioned the declaration's timing.
 
"We are surprised by this decision, by this declaration of MONUSCO, because this declaration is done while we are in the peace process with the government of Kinshasa," he said. "And when on the frontline, war has stopped."
 
Bisimwa said M23 will maintain its positions despite the warning, but said they will not attack the Congolese army or MONUSCO.
 
Peace talks between M23 and the Congolese government, launched after the attack on Goma last year, have stalled with the latest round of fighting this month.

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by: Enock Omweri from: Nairobi
August 01, 2013 7:46 AM
While the meeting by ICGLR leaders in Nairobi is a step in the right direction, it should be noted that, the conflict in Congo is between a state and non-state entity. ICGLR leaders are representatives of the institution of presidency (states). With which the government of Congo can relate with directly much to the detriment of the M23 rebels. To manage the conflict in Congo calls therefore for an approach that address the concerns of the belligerents and the people they represent. Approaching the conflict casually- via the ‘standard operating procedure’ as mentioned during the meeting is an exercise in futility.

Successfully conflict management mechanisms in protracted conflicts demands for a recipe that includes; a good mediation strategy plus structure, an equal measure of negotiation agenda and appropriate measure of good offices. In the buildup to approving the framework to the conflict between the government of Congo and M23 rebels, ICGLR leaders need to engage regional institutions with capacity to intervene indirectly. This should be done while regional states seek for ways to transform the conflict, align their vested interests, and gear them properly to addressing the conflict.

Enock Omweri
Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies
University of Nairobi

In Response

by: Aoci from: Kinshasa
August 04, 2013 1:35 PM
Mr. Enock,

I believe you know better than that. The only solution to the problem facing Congo DR today is its lack of a strong and effective military force. African should learn to be honest when speaking about issues that are affecting all of us. We should also stop using science in ways that fit our personal goal and objectives. Congolese people are learning the hard way about their neighbors.

Aoci.

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