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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

36 people are confirmed dead, but some 266 remain trapped on board More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid