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DRC Refutes M23 Charges of Divisiveness, Rights Violations

Congolese Foreign Minister Raymond Tshibanda at peace talks with M23 rebels, Kampala, Uganda, Dec. 9, 2012.
The Democratic Republic of Congo delegation on Tuesday denied M23 rebel group’s opening allegations that the government had fueled unrest in the eastern part of the country.

On the third day of peace talks in Kampala, the delegation also accused the rebel group of human rights violations.

Congolese delegation sits opposite row of empty seats intended for delegation of M23 rebels, Kampala, Uganda, Dec. 10, 2012.
Congolese delegation sits opposite row of empty seats intended for delegation of M23 rebels, Kampala, Uganda, Dec. 10, 2012.
A day after failing to show up for Monday peace talks, M23 delegates finally listened to the Congolese government’s response to the rebel group’s opening statement, which included wide-ranging accusations that described the conflict as the result of bad governance, in which DRC officials divided communities and violated basic human rights.

“When President [Joseph] Kabila came into power in 2010, we were dealing with a very serious problem," said Congolese Foreign Minister Raymond Tshibanda as he denied the claims. "Some of our citizens have been sidelined and they were stigmatized. He worked to bring back everybody together.

“It’s a bit strange for the people who are known to be the main violators of human rights to claim that they want to establish human rights in our country," he continued, referring to M23's opening claim that re-establishing human rights in the region was one of the rebel army's key objectives. "When you look at what they’ve done during the short time they’ve been running some portions of the North Kivu, how many women have been sexually abused by M23 soldiers?”

In calling for M23 to be disbanded, Tshibanda also refuted allegations that the Congolese government had subverted a 2009 peace agreement between the government and the National Congress for the Defense of the People [CNDP], an earlier rebel group. Some members of the CNDP formed the M23 earlier this year.

The Congolese government was set to deliver its response yesterday, but representatives from M23 failed to attend the meeting. They did not offer an official reply to Tshibanda’s statement Tuesday.

Despite the tensions, Uganda Defense Minister Crispus Kiyonga, who is mediating the talks, said both sides have emphasized reaching a negotiation to end the months-long conflict in eastern Congo.

“I would like once again to reiterate what both M23 and also the government side have said," Kiyonga announced. "We are here in Kampala to find peace for our people in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.”

The conference is now preparing to set the terms of negotiations for the remainder of the talks.

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