News / Africa

DRC Opposition Rejects Offer to Join M23 Talks

Congolese M23 rebels carry goods in the back of a truck near the Congo-Uganda border town of Bunagana, DRC, December 5, 2012.Congolese M23 rebels carry goods in the back of a truck near the Congo-Uganda border town of Bunagana, DRC, December 5, 2012.
x
Congolese M23 rebels carry goods in the back of a truck near the Congo-Uganda border town of Bunagana, DRC, December 5, 2012.
Congolese M23 rebels carry goods in the back of a truck near the Congo-Uganda border town of Bunagana, DRC, December 5, 2012.
Nick Long
Opposition parties in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have rejected an invitation by the government to attend talks with the M23 rebels in Kampala.  The talks are due to start on Friday.

The government and the opposition are agreed on one thing - the opposition will not be at the Kampala meeting.  The leaders of four opposition groups in the DRC parliament were invited by the government, and the M23 had also said it wanted the opposition to be there.  

Ruling party member Francois Kasende, who is president of the defense commission in parliament, said the opposition had insisted on certain conditions for going to Kampala which the government could not accept.

Kasende said they had asked that first of all there should be a consultation at the national level between the government and the unarmed opposition before the meeting with the M23.

One of the presidents of the four opposition groups, Jose Makila, confirmed that they had insisted on certain conditions before they would agree to attend.

The opposition will not go to Kampala, Makila said, because they could not just be like flowers on the table.  If they were to go, he said, the terms of reference would have to be clear and their role in the talks would have to be defined.

The coordinator of another of the four parliamentary groups, lawmaker Martin Fayulu, said that there had been a meeting of the four groups this week.

"Almost everybody said we can't go because we don't know the agenda in Kampala," Fayulu explained.  "We don't know what was really in the agreement between Kabila's government and the CNDP.  We don't know and we can't go."

The M23 rebellion is a successor organization to the CNDP (National Congress for the Defense of the People), a rebel movement which signed a peace agreement with President Joseph Kabila's government on March 23, 2009.  The M23 takes its name from that agreement which it claims was never implemented.

Although there is a text of the agreement, opposition leaders in the DRC say there was also an unwritten agreement ceding control of part of North Kivu province to the CNDP, a movement dominated by Kinyarwanda speakers with ethnic ties to Rwanda.  The Kabila government denies such an agreement.

In the past month, since they captured and then relinquished the city of Goma, the M23 rebels have effectively offered opposition parties in the DRC an alliance, at least at the negotiating table.

To its list of demands, it added a call for the release from house arrest of Etienne Tshisekedi, the veteran opposition leader whose supporters assert won the presidential elections last November.

But Tshisekedi, who the government says is not under house arrest, has not publicly given any signs of wanting to ally with M23, a movement that according to U.N. experts is backed by Uganda and Rwanda, although both countries deny this.

Martin Fayulu, whose parliamentary group is closely allied with Tshisekedi, said that the opposition does not trust Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni nor Rwandan President Paul Kagame to facilitate negotiations with the rebels.

"We are ready to meet, we the opposition with the ruling majority, inside Congo or even outside, but not in Kampala and not in Rwanda," Fayulu added.  "And the guy who is to lead the meeting should not be Museveni or Kagame.  We want somebody else to first of all facilitate discussions between Congolese to solve the legitimacy problem [we have] because of the bad elections we had in November last year."

It is hard to gauge the feelings of the opposition in general to the prospect of negotiations with the M23.  A debate was supposed to have been held in the lower house last week on the general subject of the M23 rebellion but it quickly degenerated into a shouting match and the session was closed.

Jose Makila said that most opposition deputies would have been happy to attend the meeting in Kampala if they had been invited.

Makila said whenever there are negotiations, all the politicians want to go, but it's not possible, when there are more than 500 political parties in the country.  The problem, he said, is people are thinking "why should he go and not me?" Congolese politicians, he added, are more interested in form than in substance.

But the Congolese media strongly suggest that many Congolese politicians would see the invitation to Kampala as a poisoned chalice which might do lasting harm to their reputations if they were seen as condoning a peace deal which allowed Rwandan or Ugandan proxy forces to dominate part of the country.

Even some ruling party politicians, such as the former foreign affairs minister, Leonard She Okitundu, have spoken out against the idea of holding the talks in Kampala.

Fayulu said going to Kampala would mean accepting a partition of the country.
 
The M23 has not said it wishes to split the country, but its predecessor movement the CNDP did propose a division of North Kivu province into two new districts.

Congo's vice prime minister told the senate last week that the government could not accept the idea of dividing North Kivu province into two parts, as this would likely heighten ethnic tensions.

You May Like

Analyst: Joint-Arab Military Force Poses Perilous Challenge

Although international forces are desperately needed to counter the threat of the Islamic State group, analysts say conflicting alliances could escalate fighting More

Asia’s Middle Class Changes Demand for Wheat Grain Exporters

Changes in tastes and diets are boon for wheat exporters such as Australia and the United States More

S. African Comedian Taking Over Popular TV Show

Mixed-race comedian Trevor Noah, who is loved for his edgy jibes about race and language, is taking the helm from Jon Stewart at The Daily Show in US More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
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 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 With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
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 Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic 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.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

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