GOMA, DRC — Peace talks in Kampala, Uganda, between the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) government and the M23 rebels have stalled again, according to the rebels, who report government team leaders have left the talks.
The meetings began in December and broke down in March before the two sides restarted talks earlier this week.
On Monday, there was some optimism that an agreement might be close, but on Friday the rebel delegation said there’s been little progress and that key DRC negotiators have left.
Rene Abandi, head of the M23 rebel delegation, said foreign affairs minister Raymond Tshibanda had left Kampala and that his deputy, Abbe Malu Malu, is not there either, leaving the government team leaderless.
According to Abandi, the DRC government team that remains in Uganda is unable to make decisions.
There are reports of a breakdown in relations between the Congolese minister Raymond Tshibanda and the facilitator of the talks, Ugandan defense minister Crispus Kiyonga.
"It seems there was a disagreement between the head of the Congolese delegation and the facilitator and maybe if the talks carry on we will see a new head of the government delegation in Kampala," said Thierry Vircoulon, an analyst with the International Crisis Group. "I say maybe because the talks don’t seem to be making much progress. The draft agreements that are circulating since December seem to be more or less the same so it seems to be always more or less the same discussion."
When asked if he'd had a disagreement with Tshibanda, Uganda Defense Minister Crispus Kiyonga said, "Why don't you talk to him, look for him, they are quoting him, they are not quoting me. Look for Raymond Tshibanda."
Attempts to reach Tshibanda were unsuccessful.
Francois Muamba, a senior member of the government team in Kampala, would not confirm whether Tshibanda had left the talks after a disagreement with Kiyonga.
The M23 rebels are weakened and contained militarily, and the DRC government is not in a hurry to reach an agreement, according to the International Crisis Group's Thierry Vircoulon, who said Congolese army chiefs appear optimistic about their chances of defeating M23 on the battlefield.