News / Africa

Time Running Out for Latest Round of DRC Peace Talks

M23 rebel leaders are escorted in Bunagana, in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, in this September 8, 2013, file photo.M23 rebel leaders are escorted in Bunagana, in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, in this September 8, 2013, file photo.
x
M23 rebel leaders are escorted in Bunagana, in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, in this September 8, 2013, file photo.
M23 rebel leaders are escorted in Bunagana, in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, in this September 8, 2013, file photo.
Nick Long
Time is running out at the peace talks in Kampala between the Democratic Republic of Congo’s government and the rebels of the M23 movement.  Regional heads of state had asked the parties to the talks to try to reach a peace deal before the U.N. General Assembly session opens next week.

A spokesman for the Ugandan mediator said the talks have made progress, but that is not the view of the senior Congolese government negotiator, Francois Muamba.

He said “in our view, there has not been progress.” The mediator has shuttled between the two delegations, but there is not yet a complete draft proposal for a settlement of this process.

The DRC government’s position is that the rebels must lay down their arms, as the United Nations and regional heads of state have also demanded.

Muamba told VOA most, but not all of the rebels can be granted an amnesty.

The government is very clear, he said.  Will there be an amnesty? Yes, for all those who are not guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including rape and pillage.  But he said there will not be blanket amnesty, it will be granted on a case-by-case basis.

He added that the government is drawing up a list of those who will not be eligible for amnesty.

M23 spokesman Rene Abandi said the amnesty question and of possible integration of M23 fighters into the DRC army were not the reasons for the rebellion, and most of its fighters do not want to join the army.
The talks should be focused on other issues, he said, notably the return of Congolese refugees from Rwanda and the disarmament and demobilization of other armed groups in the Congo such as the Rwandan rebel group FDLR and the Ugandan rebel group ADF-NALU.

Call for rebels groups to disband

The regional heads of state have called for those groups, as well as M23, to be disbanded.

Abandi admitted that this cannot all happen in the next week, but said they could be working out a plan for disarmament of the FDLR and for the return of refugees.

"It is very important to at least have a plan.  With which things do we begin?  Securing the space (that refugees will return to)?  When probably can they begin to come back?  OK, the other issues are FDLR disarmament, the resettlement of refugees, the problem of land.  At least we could be in Kampala solving these issues theoretically."

For the government, these issues are not real problems, they are excuses for the M23 to refuse to lay down its arms.

Muamba said the FDLR used to number tens of thousands and is now down to between 1,000 and 1,500, and the army would probably have finished them off if the M23 had not launched its rebellion. 

He said the U.N. Intervention Brigade has a mandate to neutralize all the armed groups in eastern Congo, so the M23 is just raising problems to which there are already solutions.
As for the return of refugees, Muamba says the U.N. refugee agency, not the DRC government, has the leadership role.

An observer at the talks, Aaron Hall, who works for the human rights organization Enough Project, thinks negotiations have some way to go.

"I think the chances of a peace deal coming out of Kampala by the end of next week are very slim," said Hall.

Hall predicted that leaders from the Great Lakes countries and southern African states could agree at a meeting at the United Nations this month to go beyond the Kampala talks by bringing in other states in the region.

"The idea then might be to create a secondary process that is broader in scope and more inclusive of various stakeholders in the region that need to be at the table, particularly Rwanda.  With the additional parties at the table these stakeholders might be able to address some of the core issues that have caused decades of conflict in the region," said Hall.

Other observers tell VOA they expect African heads of state, when they meet in New York on September 23, to press states in the Great Lakes region to disarm the M23 and other armed groups.

You May Like

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More