Museveni’s diplomacy saved the day at DRC security summitBy GAAKI KIGAMBO | Sunday, August 12 2012 at 15:17
Deft diplomacy on the part of Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni averted the total collapse of the extraordinary meeting of Heads of State and Government from the Great Lakes Region that took place in Kampala last week.
The meeting was called over the continuing insecurity in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
An estimated 400,000 people have been forced to flee their homes and seek refuge in neighbouring Uganda and Rwanda since a rebellion by former Congolese soldiers broke out in April.
The number of people who have died either through direct combat or related circumstances is unknown.
Museveni’s diplomatic efforts also staved off a possible military flare-up in eastern DRC along regional lines that would have pitted the Southern Africa Development Community states against the East African Community states of Rwanda and Uganda.
Details emerging from behind the scenes indicate that as regional leaders gathered in Uganda’s capital, a prior understanding between Angola and the DRC had encouraged a degree of belligerence in the Congolese delegation, which left all three preparatory meetings preceding the one of the Heads of State in a virtual stalemate.
For one, the DRC together with the Republic of Congo refused to sign the final report of the region’s ministers of defence meeting held in Khartoum, Sudan on August 1 — apparently because the French version was of “poor quality.”
The meeting had been sanctioned by the region’s Heads of State meeting on the sidelines of the AU Summit in Addis Ababa to explore ways of dealing with “negative forces” in the eastern DRC.
But The EastAfrican newspaper reported that the real reason for the DRC’s not signing the report was the meeting’s rejection of its demands that the neutral force agreed to by the Heads of State be quickly constituted and deployed immediately. This was considered not practical. (READ: Great Lakes leaders mull over Congo force)
In Kampala, the meeting of national co-ordinators of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), which organised the extraordinary meeting, and security experts from member states failed to reach a consensus on how to establish the neutral force, apparently because of continuous objection from the Congolese and Angolan delegations.
The meeting that followed, of defence and foreign ministers, ended in a stalemate occasioned by the DRC’s insistence that the M23 rebels constituted “negative forces,” and so should simply be targeted for annihilation and those behind them — read Rwanda — be punished with sanctions for aggression towards a sovereign state.
The DRC stand was informed by the tacit support of Angola, which has reportedly committed to supporting the Congolese effort to tackle the M23 rebellion.
In fact, there were reports that Angola had already dispatched troops to halt the rebels’ advance on Goma, the biggest town in eastern Congo.
Such a bilateral arrangement for military support between the two SADC members apparently falls within the provisions of the bloc’s Mutual Defence Pact, which states that: “An armed attack against a State Party shall be considered a threat to regional security. Such an attack shall be met with immediate collective action by all State Parties.”
Although the ICGLR has a protocol on mutual defence as well, it isn’t as clear and immediate in its language as the SADC’s.
Thus, by directly accusing Rwanda, and in an indirect way Uganda too, of backing the M23 rebels, an accusation both countries have rejected, President Joseph Kabila was making a case for the intervention of SADC generally and Angola in particular, because of the close ties he shares with his Angolan counterpart President Jose Eduardo dos Santos.
The possible return of Angola to the DRC war theatre risked triggering a major confrontation in the country along the regional alliance lines that characterised the five-year war that ran from 1998 to 2003.
This possibility compelled President Museveni to make a personal call on President Dos Santos a week to the Kampala meeting, in which he appealed to him to support dialogue on the situation in the DRC.
Back in Kampala, President Museveni, upon learning that even the meeting of the defence and foreign affairs ministers had ended in a deadlock, met individually with every president and then collectively with Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame and the DRC’s President Kabila before the official meeting of all presidents opened.
The EastAfrican reported that in these brief tête-à-têtes, President Museveni sought commitment to dialogue from each of the presidents.
He emphasised the need for homegrown solutions to the challenges that the region faces. This is how both ideas ended up strongly reflected in the final communiqué.
Sources who attended the presidents’ meeting say it took place in a cordial atmosphere quite unlike the tension that marked previous meetings, especially the ministers.’
This was confirmed by Rwanda’s Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo, when she remarked to some journalists at the end of the first day that the main meeting had gone far better than those before it.
Indeed, the final declaration by the Heads of State is not only clear and markedly different in its decisions from the recommendations the ministers’ meeting had suggested; it also demonstrates a level of consensus that cannot be read in the ministers’ communiqué.
So, while on the surface the Kampala meeting failed to achieve tangible specifics relating to the composition and funding of the neutral force, a matter that dwarfed everything else on the agenda, getting the parties to commit to continuing dialogue was in itself a big achievement in a region known to resort to guns to resolve its differences.
A subcommittee comprising ministers of defence from the seven countries was established to find all possible means to stop the fighting and build peace, security and stability in eastern DRC as well as to provide details on how to form the neutral force. It is expected to report back in four weeks.
- Why Obama is visiting Tanzania
- Another politician for the Kenya Cabinet
- Kisumu, where some folks are eating well, while others are going hungry
- The girl who met Gaddafi 'in hell'
- Kenyan call girls go high-tech
- Achebe’s body arrives home
- Eritrea's Afeworki: reviled and revered ex-rebel
- Ethiopia's anti-female cut crusader honoured
- After Berlin Man, two reported cured of HIV in Kenya
Beyond the ballot