An official of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) says peace talks between the government and the M23 rebel group in neighboring Uganda’s capital, Kampala could be concluded next week.
Information Minister Lambert Mende also expressed hope that the conclusion of the talks could pave way for peace, stability and the protection of lives and property in the restive parts of the North Kivu province.
“We are coming to an end because the facilitator the Uganda Minister for Defense [Crispus Kiyonga] has delivered a keynote on which we are going to give our remarks very soon and probably we can finish everything maybe next week,” said Mende. “I think a lot of things that we have said and the facilitator has taken into account, so I think we are approaching a solution.”
Talks between the Congolese government and the rebels resumed after heads of state in Africa’s Great Lakes region demanded a resumption of the negotiations.
The African leaders, who recently met in Kampala to find ways of ending the conflict, demanded the talks begin within three days and end within 14 days.
Some observers say the ongoing talks have flouted the regional leaders’ directive to end within the two-week window. But, Mende disagreed.
“It didn’t work [and] we didn’t end the talks within two weeks. But, if we end next week it won’t destroy the work and it will not be a bad thing,” he said.
Some of the victims of the M23 rebel insurgency in the restive North Kivu provinces are hopeful that a solution could be reached at the peace talks to ensure peace in the area.
The DRC and the United Nations have accused Uganda and Rwanda of supporting armed groups that often fight the Congolese national army. But both Uganda and Rwanda have denied the accusation.
“You know that this rebellion is not a Congolese one,” said Mende. “It was masterminded by Rwanda. So, if Rwanda wants to cooperate with its own commitment, we think that we shall end this sickness of our region.”
Mend says the government in Kinshasa is pleased with the peacekeeping wok by the United Nations intervention brigade in the country.
“We are satisfied by the effort that is being made by these international forces for one or two months now. We think that a good job will be done as soon as this M23 had decided to disarm, itself we shall see the situation of the FDLR [Hutu rebel group] who are destroying our country and threatening their country and other national armed groups,” said Mende. “We shall disarm all of them and we hope that the job will be done.”
Clottey interview with Lambert Mende, Congo's information minister