GOMA - Eleven countries of Africa's Great Lakes region have set up a new mechanism for sharing information on security threats.
Intelligence chiefs from each member nation gathered in Goma this week for the opening ceremony of the Center for Intelligence Sharing for the Great Lakes Countries.
According to the center's executive secretary, Professor Ntumba Luaba, a former DRC government minister, partnering countries - Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia, Angola, Congo-Brazzaville, Central African Republic, and Sudan - decided to base the center in Goma, a regional flashpoint for recent wars, because of its proximity to numerous armed groups.
"The launch of this initiative comes at a time of tense relations between the DRC and Rwanda, after a mutiny among Congolese army units, which the DRC says was instigated from Rwanda," said Luaba.
Kalev Mutond, head of DRC intelligence, told guests at the ceremony, which included Rwandan officials, that such differences only further justify the center's existence, which government officials have described as a place for "permanent consultation."
"While there were differences between the Congo and Rwanda, a solution will certainly be found to those differences, and the center will help in that process," he said.
James Entwistle, the United States ambassador to the DRC, who was in Goma during the event, said the U.S. also welcomes the initiative.
"I think it’s extremely encouraging, and the effort has the full support of the U.S.," he said. "I think as we try to find solutions to difficult regional problems, the first step has to be the countries of the region themselves taking steps to coordinate among themselves."
Regional hostilities, threats
In the hills north of Goma, although a virtual ceasefire between Congolese soldiers and the mutineers who call themselves the M23 is appearing to hold, militants had threatened to fire on United Nations aircraft earlier in the week.
Entwistle said any prospective M23 attacks targeting international forces, which have been mounting operations in support of the Congolese army, would be a "mistake," explaining that the U.N. has the right to defend itself in such a situation and would likely do so.
Entwistle recently commended the world body's mandated military mission in Congo, known as MONUSCO, not only for assisting efforts against the M23, but for protecting civilians. The U.N. Security Council is set to discuss MONUSCO's mandate later this month and may vote to change it.
Commenting on Kinshasa's recent statement that the M23 have been receiving support from Rwanda, he said U.S. officials have read and analyzed all the same reports on which the allegations are based.
"We are in touch with all the governments of the countries of the Great Lakes, [and] we have good relations with all of them," he said. "We’re having intense discussions with all of them, and if it were to turn out that one Great Lakes countries was interfering in another, that would be very regrettable."