News / Africa

    Congo Government, Rebel M23 'Chat' in Public

    DRC Foreign Minister Raymond Tshibanda (L) and M23 Spokesman Rene Abandi discuss the situation, at DRC peace talks in Kampala, Uganda, Sept. 17. (VOA/A. Hall)DRC Foreign Minister Raymond Tshibanda (L) and M23 Spokesman Rene Abandi discuss the situation, at DRC peace talks in Kampala, Uganda, Sept. 17. (VOA/A. Hall)
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    DRC Foreign Minister Raymond Tshibanda (L) and M23 Spokesman Rene Abandi discuss the situation, at DRC peace talks in Kampala, Uganda, Sept. 17. (VOA/A. Hall)
    DRC Foreign Minister Raymond Tshibanda (L) and M23 Spokesman Rene Abandi discuss the situation, at DRC peace talks in Kampala, Uganda, Sept. 17. (VOA/A. Hall)
    Nick Long
    Negotiators at peace talks between the Democratic Republic of Congo's government and the M23 rebel movement have three days left before a deadline set by regional leaders for wrapping up the talks. On Monday, the government delegation will be flying to the U.N. General Assembly in New York, and there's hope they may be able to report some kind of progress - although a complete peace deal in the next few days appears to be unlikely.

    Since the opening session of these talks last December, all the negotiating has been behind closed doors. The media have caught hardly a glimpse of the two sides actually speaking to each other.
     
    Before a session on Tuesday, though, the lead negotiators, DRC Foreign Minister Raymond Tshibanda and M23 spokesman Rene Abandi, stood on the lawn outside the conference center and had a conversation lasting about 15 minutes, in front of cameras.

    Constructive conversation

    Security kept journalists back just out of earshot. Clearly both men, however, wanted to convey the message that constructive negotiations are going on here: Tshibanda did most of the talking, gesturing expansively and looking relaxed, while the rebel Abandi, a younger man, listened respectfully.
     
    Ugandan journalist Samson Ntale said he thinks this scene has significance. “It’s the first time we saw them in a chat, lasting several minutes. I don’t know whether they were just acting for the media. But if we are to read from the body language, that’s an indication they are heading to a truce,” he said.
     
    Speaking to VOA this week, the spokesman for the government delegation, Francois Muamba, said they hadn’t made any progress at the talks recently. The M23’s Abandi said they haven’t agreed on anything recently that he could reveal. Both men warned there soon could be more fighting.
     
    But the talks' facilitator, Ugandan Defense Minister Crispus Kiyonga, gave a more upbeat assessment.

    “My reading as the facilitator is that the government and the M23 are still strongly interested and committed to the talks. My expectation is that we shall conclude the dialogue soon,” he said.

    Kiyonga also unveiled the priority issues on the agenda. Most of them are the same issues they’ve been discussing for months. Two items not mentioned, though, were amnesty for M23 members and integration of their troops in the Congolese army.

    Possible solutions
     
    The month the DRC government said it would consider amnesty for M23 members except those suspected of war crimes, rape and pillage. The M23 said they were not too concerned about the amnesty issue and most of their fighters would not want to join, or rejoin, the Congolese army.

    Other issues, including the future of the Congo-based Rwandan rebel group FDLR, and the future of Congolese refugees in Rwanda - mostly ethnic Tutsis - could be sticking points, said Aaron Hall, analyst for the human rights organization the Enough Project.
     
    “Just recently we heard from the M23 that they would agree to disarm and demobilize if the Congolese government were to address the outstanding issues of disbanding the FDLR and commit to right of return for Congolese refugee populations in Rwanda, two very difficult issues to solve,” said Hall.

    The DRC-M23 conflict flared up last year, after a group of former rebels-turned-soldiers left the army, complaining of poor treatment. M23 later seized territory in Congo's North Kivu province. The sides recently clashed again, as the rebels continue to hold areas north of the provincial capital, Goma.

    Several observers said they expect pressure to build at the U.N. General Assembly for the DRC peace talks to be broadened to include other states in the region including Rwanda.
     
    U.N. experts have reported that Rwanda has been supporting the M23, an accusation consistently and strongly denied in capital city Kigali.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Jean Kiboko from: Goma
    September 22, 2013 8:23 AM
    The wars in Kivu will never stop until DR Congo has a legitimate leader and not a puppet supported by external forces. Dominique de Villepin and Paul Dijoud from France are the one who imported Rwanda's wars into Congo. They sleep peacefully while eastern Congo is in bleeding. George Tenet, then CIA interim boss warned Mobutu- DRC and Mkapa, Tanzania of the risks, but the two frenchmen were more persuading to Mobutu. The rest is history. DRC bled, Tanzania stayed peaceful. Give France a piece of Great Lakes cake and for its interests will support lasting peace. Already General Hullet of France has ruled out attacking FDLR its only reliable support in region, after M23.

    by: Hans Walter from: Hanover
    September 20, 2013 10:52 AM
    The Japs manufacture Toyota cars, cubans are known for their Cigars Rwandan Extremist Tutsis have nothing to export, their only
    manufacture lies and can't be taken seriously.all kagame has for sale is genocidal bones:leftovers of killings he has personally inflicted on the people of Rwanda, Thus he is only been exporting genocide and war to congo an to the region. The only true negotiation that would ensure lasting peace is THE REMOVAL OF GENOCIE SUSPECT PAUL KAGAME.

    by: GetOut from: Rutshuru, Congo
    September 19, 2013 3:17 PM
    Until Kagame and Museveni decide that it is not worth it to fight in Congo to get a piece of it all these "talks" are a waste of time, as Kagame and his protector Museveni can just turn around and start another rebel group or send the Rwandan Army in open in Congo...These talks are not serious and will lead nowhere, if anyone need to negotiate it should be Kagame and Museveni on one side and the Congolese government and their allies on the other side...I am glad the Congolese government seems to understand Kagame not so subtle game now....

    by: Anonymous
    September 19, 2013 2:16 PM
    "Several observers said they expect pressure to build at the U.N. General Assembly for the DRC peace talks to be broadened to include other states in the region including Rwanda."
    If Rwanda has issues, those should be settled or discussed separately. DRC governance is for DRC and her population. Allowing Rwanda to come with its Agenda to meetins for DRC peace will be a huge and very naive mistake. It is like discussing Iran issues in Syria peace talks or trying to solve the Palestine issues in the Syria peace talks, that cannot work. Rwanda will cause as much difficulty as possible using excuse of FLDR -Hutu rebels. That is an issue that can be discussed between DRC and Rwanda with help on UN later. Any attacks of Rwanda on DRC must not be tolerated no matter the excuse. USA did not attack Russia over Snowden. It is true though US violated Pakistan air space to kill Bid laden , but that caused a lot of problems to this day.
    So Rwanda must stay out of DRC affairs outside UN ,AU or legitimate international fora and not be allowed to mix up issues to promote their own agendas.

    by: Anonymous
    September 19, 2013 2:05 PM
    Those are the jokes in Kampala, there are no talks there. What is going on is Uganda and Rwanda regimes trying to dupe the international community that somehow their rebels are genuine about peace. Judging by the track record of Rwanda and Uganda regimes, that is wishful thinking. DRC/SADC had better wake up and train a strong army. The incentive for plunder is a weak DRC army and poor governance and lack of development in DRC. That is why you see a lot of frogs in DRC East, as the saying goes, when the head of home is absent, frogs flock to the home. The M23 is rooted in the belligerence of the two autocrats regimes in the region. For their tp be peace, Uganda and Rwanda also to rid themselves of backward leaders that only think of war and militias and plunder.
    UN/SADC /DRC will be extremely naive indeed to stake most of its faith , hope or plans in the Kampala jokes.
    In Response

    by: Punza from: Bunagana
    September 19, 2013 3:22 PM
    I agree, these Kampala "talks" are a waste of money and time...if someone needs to negotiate it is the pathetic denier of Congo involvement Kagame with his buddy Museveni on one side and Congo and their allies (SADC,etc) on the other side. There is no point in spending money in Kampala hotels this way while people are dying and being displaced in the region...it is a disgrace...If Kagame and Museveni cannot negotiate and keep denying their involvement in Congo then only one option will be left for Congo and SADC: fight this war to the end, even if it means to bring it to Kagame and show Kagame his own absurdity

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