Heads of state and government in the Great Lakes region of Africa plan to meet in Uganda on Thursday to discuss the security crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) following renewed clashes between the national army and the M23 rebels.
Uganda President Yoweri Museveni, the head of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region, will open the meeting in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, according to Ambassador James Mugume, the permanent secretary at Uganda’s Foreign Affairs Ministry.
The heads of state, Mugume says, will focus on addressing concerns of the recent DRC conflict, which threatens regional peace and security.
“We would hope that the fighting would stop. We would go back to dialogue and we would have harmonization of the international community,” Mugume said, adding that the leaders needed to address “the root causes of the problem.”
Peace negotiations between the DRC government and the representatives of the M23 rebels appear to have stalled despite repeated efforts by the regional bloc.
Uganda has been acting as host and mediator at the talks to find a political agreement to resolve the security crisis in the DRC. Mugume says the leaders will look at two key areas in resolving the DRC conflict.
“One is the political process, which is part of the dialogue, and the dialogue addresses the fundamental or root causes of the problem, and the [U.N.] intervention force deals with the negative forces,” said Mugume. “The purpose of this [summit] is to try and see if we can get back on track of the political process which is supported by the international community and the AU [African Union].”
Mugume says the leaders will also discuss reported diplomatic tension between Tanzania and Rwanda.
“All the issues will be discussed including the issue of relations between Rwanda and Tanzania. Because this is a regional effort and all heads of state will come in Kampala and put their heads together in order to resolve all the issues to ensure that the initiative gets back on track,” said Mugume.
The diplomatic tension between Dodoma and Kigali came after Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete said countries involved in the DRC peace talks, Rwanda included, should talk to rebel groups to end the fighting in the region.
Rwanda responded to Kikwete’s pronouncement with sharp criticism because the government in Rwanda refuses to negotiate with FDLR rebels. The FDLR rebels are blamed for playing a key role in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.
Clottey interview with Ambassador James Mugume