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

    Russia Sees Brexit Impact Widespread but Temporary

    Officials, citizens react to Britain’s vote to exit European Union with mix of pleasure, understanding and concern

    Obama Encourages Entrepreneurs to Seek Global Interconnection

    President tells entrepreneurs at global summit at Stanford University to find mentors, push ahead with new ideas on day after Britain voters decide to exit EU

    Video Some US Gun Owners Support Gun Control

    Defying the stereotype, Dave Makings says he'd give up his assault rifle for a comprehensive program to reduce gun violence

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora