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

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    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.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    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.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora