News / Africa

DRC Civil Society Backs Calls for National Dialogue

M23 rebel fighters walk as they withdraw near the town of Sake, west of Goma in eastern Congo, November 30, 2012.
M23 rebel fighters walk as they withdraw near the town of Sake, west of Goma in eastern Congo, November 30, 2012.
Nick Long
Civil society groups in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo have backed a call by several opposition parties for a national dialogue, or conference. Large parts of North Kivu province are currently controlled by M23 rebels or other militias, and civil society groups say a dialogue is needed to help unite the country. The government has hinted that it might organize such a conference, so this now seems likely to happen. But it may not be enough to end the war.
 
Civil society in eastern Congo doesn’t always speak with one voice, but on the question of whether a national dialogue is needed, there seems to be broad agreement.

Readiness for dialogue

A group describing itself as 45 members of civil society in eastern Congo met in Entebbe, Uganda, recently and issued a declaration calling for a national dialogue. That call was echoed over the weekend by another group which calls itself the civil society of North Kivu.
 
Those two groups are broadly aligned with the two main political factions in North Kivu.
 
Omar Kavota, spokesman for the civil society of North Kivu, said that it’s important that a national dialogue should be held, so that the opposition can be heard and national cohesion can be reinforced. He said that would enable the country to finish with the M23 and other armed groups.
 
Three out of the four main opposition groups in the parliament have also announced that they are ready for a dialogue. President Joseph Kabila, has said he is planning an ‘initiative’ to rally the country which would be open to all political and social forces.
 
The president may have been reluctant to use the word dialogue as that would remind people of a power-sharing dialogue that he had to submit to 10 years ago, to end a long civil war. But the statement seems to indicate that he is planning some kind of conference.

Conditional reluctance

About the only group that seems reluctant to take part in a dialogue is the biggest opposition party, the UDPS, (or Union for Democracy and Social Progress) which has said it will only take part if certain conditions are met first, such as releasing its leader from virtual house arrest.  
 
But a national conference is unlikely to bring peace overnight. Civil society spokesman Kavota stressed that holding a dialogue should not rule out pursuing the military option against the M23.
 
He said that these are two different things. If the government has to envisage the military option, he said, it’s to resolve the problem of the M23 and the crisis in the east of the country. He added that the aim of a national dialogue with the opposition and civil society, on the other hand, would be to unite the country and to discuss national policy and governance problems.
 
He said his group is not counting on the current peace talks to resolve the crisis in North Kivu.
 
Talks started this month in Kampala, Uganda, between the government and the M23. The opposition boycotted the meeting, which broke up on December 21 and is due to restart on January 4.  

Peace deal unlikely

Goma-based analyst Maria Lange, who works for the NGO International Alert, also thinks the Kampala talks are unlikely to lead to a peace deal. She said, "It seems the two parties are not terribly interested in reaching a deal and each side seems to be preparing militarily, so I think it’s quite unlikely - unless there could be a kind of back-door agreement between the presidents, outside of the negotiations."
 
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said last week he is trying to resolve the eastern Congo crisis within "a broader political framework" involving several presidents in the region.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame is likely to be involved in any peace deal. Mr. Kagame has persistently denied U.N. reports that he’s backing the M23, but donor countries have cut some of their aid to Rwanda over the issue, and have threatened to cut more.
 
Lange thinks Mr. Kagame will be resistant to pressure. She said, "I think Rwanda’s primary interest is regime stability and stability within the country and on its borders, and I think any sign of a threat to that primary interest will make Rwanda react in a way that cannot be influenced by international pressure."
 
Mr. Kabila is also under pressure from his own military and from other armed groups not to agree to a peace deal that will compromise their interests.
 
Some of the militias are organizing their own response to the peace talks. Last week a new group was formed calling itself the Alliance of Patriots against the Balkanization of Congo (APCBCO). The alliance claims to be a coalition of armed groups, and said it’s against any talks with the M23.
 
Its spokesman goes by the pseudonym Eddy Tourbillon, or Eddy the Whirlwind. He said  his group does not agree with the government continuing its talks with the M23 because, he alleged, the M23 are the same people who have, under different names, facilitated the invasion of the country by Rwanda five times in the past two decades.
 
He also said that last time the government concluded a deal with the people now leading the M23, they were given too much power and used it against other communities.

You May Like

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More