KAMPALA — Leaders in Africa's Great Lakes region want the government and rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo to resume peace talks following a flareup of fighting.
After a day of closed-door discussions in Kampala, five heads of state from Africa's Great Lakes region declared that negotiations should resume within three days between the Congolese government and the rebel group M23.
Participants included the presidents of Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Kampala talks were held under the auspices of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region, which Uganda chairs, and were meant to address the fresh fighting in the eastern DRC.
Late last month, the Congolese army and a U.N. intervention brigade began an offensive against the M23 rebels. The last round of negotiations between the rebels and the DRC government broke down in May.
U.N. Special Envoy Mary Robinson, who was present at the Kampala meeting, visited conflict zones in the eastern DRC earlier this week. She urged M23 to disarm, and has been advocating for a political solution to the violence.
Before Thursday's talks, Uganda’s permanent secretary for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, James Mugume, told reporters the peace process has to resume so that the Congolese government can focus on the half-dozen other armed groups operating in the east.
“If you have a political negotiation process and it has stalled, you should be concerned. And nobody wants fighting. We want to resolve the problem with M23, so that the fighting can be on these other negative forces,” Mugume said.
The 11 countries of the Great Lakes region signed a Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework Agreement in Addis Ababa earlier this year.
U.N. envoy Robinson said events of the past few days have put the commitment of these countries to the test.