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Sunday 26 October  

Regional leaders to meet on DR Congo unrest

Published on 7 October 2012 - 9:27am
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Regional delegations are gathering on Sunday ahead of a summit on the chronic unrest in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the latest attempt to end the violence there.

Monday's meeting of leaders and ministers, hosted by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, will consider recommendations drawn up at earlier meetings to set up an "international neutral force" to intervene in the area, but which have so far made little headway.

Tensions remain high between DR Congo President Joseph Kabila and his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame, who are both expected to attend the meeting, with Kinshasa accusing Kigali of stoking violence by aiding rebel forces.

The meeting is the fourth in four months organised by the 11-nation International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), and follows talks held last month on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

"The presidents of Rwanda and DR Congo are expected because the meeting is about the situation in eastern DRC," said Uganda's minister for foreign affairs Henry Okello-Oryem.

Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete is also expected because the country could potentially "provide troops for deployment in DRC", Okello-Oryem added.

Eastern DR Congo has been hit hard by a rebellion by army defectors who have formed a group called the M23, whose members are former fighters in an ethnic Tutsi rebel movement integrated into the military under a 2009 peace deal.

Bosco Ntaganda, wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on war crimes charges, is accused of leading the M23.

A UN report in June accused Rwanda of backing the rebels, causing a surge in tensions with neighbouring DR Congo. Kigali denies the charge, and has been in talks with Kinshasa to set up a neutral force to tackle the unrest.

"This international neutral force is aimed at eradicating all the negative forces operating in eastern DRC," the ICGLR said in a statement.

Earlier meetings set up a committee of seven defence ministers, led by Uganda, to help Kinshasa restore peace and security in the region.

The team comprises ministers from Angola, Burundi, Congo, DR Congo, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania, all ICGLR members.

Last month, joint military assessment teams began work to determine the size and strength of the various rebel forces in the Kivu region of eastern DR Congo, the ICGLR statement added.

However, even if the summit were to make concrete progress on the M23 and relations between Kinshasa and Kigali, multiple armed groups operate in eastern DR Congo, a region in turmoil for the best part of the past two decades.

Much of the rebel activity in the region consists of abuses against civilians and illegal exploitation of natural resources, be it metals, ivory or timber.

Analysts appear gloomy the summit can make any real impact.

"The Kivus do not need a new strategic approach; rather, the peace agreements and stabilisation plans should no longer be empty promises," the International Crisis Group said in a report this week.

"Unfortunately, it (the ICGLR) seems to be promoting an unrealistic and ineffective solution by advocating for the deployment of a 4,000-strong neutral force at the border between Rwanda and the DRC," it added.

  • Congolese people flee a clash between M23 rebels and the Congolese army on ...
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