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 On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions More

Nigerians Await New President With High Hopes

When pomp and circumstance of inauguration end in Abuja, Buhari will sit down to the hard task of governing Nigeria More

India's Restrictions on Several NGOs Raise Concerns

Political analysts link recent clampdown on advocacy groups to report last year that said foreign-funded NGO’s negatively impact economic development More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs