Kabila told to resolve M23 grievances at ICGLR summit

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni at an International Conference of the Great Lakes region (ICGLR), in Kampala on December 15, 2011. PHOTO | FILE 

A meeting over Dr Congo of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region ICGLR in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, has told the government of the DRC to “listen and resolve the grievances of the M23,” the group fighting in the east of the country.

The resolution is one of ten agreed on between Presidents Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Mwai Kibaki of Kenya, Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania and DRC’s Joseph Kabila.

The M23 itself was ordered to “stop expanding the war forthwith and stop talk of overthrowing an elected government.”

Rwanda’s Paul Kagame did not attend the meeting after he stayed in Kigali apparently to receive his Congo-Brazzaville counterpart, Dennis Sassou-Ngeusso, who was on a state visit to Kigali.

Kagame was represented at the Kampala meeting by Louis Mushikiwabo, the Rwanda's minister for Foreign Affairs.

She told the Daily Monitor newspaper after the meeting that President Kagame was fully behind the resolutions reached by his colleagues.

Overall, the M23 will have reason to smile about the outcome of this meeting now that they have been elevated beyond the ragtag mutineers that they had been branded over the last seven months to a recognised rebel and political outfit with concerns that need to be addressed.

The rebels who on Tuesday took control of Goma town near the Rwandan border were ordered to “stop all war activities and evacuate from Goma," according to resolution number 3. But resolution number 4 asked them to withdraw “from current positions to the ground of tactical importance not less than 20 kilometers north of Goma.”

Explaining this resolution, Uganda’s Foreign Affairs minister Sam Kutesa who also read the communique said “no one will tell them which that ground will be.”

In resolution 5, the ICGLR resolved; “at Goma airport, to deploy a composite force of: one company of neutral force, one company of FARDC (the Congolese national army) and one company of M23.”

In the town of Goma, the meeting resolved “to deploy one battalion of FARDC and the DRC national police,” with special emphasis on the redeployment of the police that was there before which M23 was ordered to re-arm.

Casual jokes

One key player who has been forced on the sidelines as the conflict has escalated, the United Nations peace keeping force, MONUSCO, was asked to “provide security in the neutral zone between Goma and the new areas occupied by M23.”

Despite being accused only recently of being the actual force behind the M23, Rwanda and Uganda security chiefs were given an enhanced role in the new process. The meeting resolved that the “process shall be supervised by the Chiefs of Defence of Rwanda, the DRC and led by the Chief of Defence Forces of Uganda."

Mr Kutesa told journalists that the process of listening to and evaluation of the grievances and withdrawal by M23 from Goma was given a timeline of two weeks.

Both Rwandan and Ugandan officials expressed confidence that the rebels will accept the deal. Ms Mushikiwabo and Mr Kutesa dismissed questions about the possibility of the deal being unacceptable to the rebels.

“This is not a bad deal at all,” said Ms Mushikiwabo, “This is a real breakthrough."

Mr Kutesa added: “We are practical people, we are not going to wish them (M23 grievances) away.”

He said among the guarantees extracted from the meeting was that no one attacks the rebels where they chose to assemble,.“They will chose the best strategic position, they have legitimate concerns, ” he said.

In President Kagame’s absence, the meeting was said to have flowed largely smoothly, an official who attended reported.

Host President Museveni attempted to throw causal jokes both at the beginning and at the end of the session with the media, joking that if the media chose to blow us up the story, "at least we shall go to heaven together.”

The political head of M23 quietly sneaked into the country before the meeting but did not attend.

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