Parallel Congo peace talks open in Kinshasa, Kampala

Congolese President Joseph Kabila delivers a speech at the start of "national consultations" at the People's Palace in Kinshasa on September 7, 2013. President Kabila launched "national consultations" aimed at putting an end to the political, social and security stalemate in the country amid a boycott by the main opposition party. PHOTO | FILE 

Two parallel dialogues aimed at restoring peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo started on Tuesday in Kinshasa and the Ugandan capital, Kampala, respectively.

Where the actors and circumstances are quite different, the purpose is the same: restoring peace in DRC.

In Kampala, the key problem is how to put an end to the war in the North Kivu Province between the DRC government and the M23 rebel movement.

The peace talks started in December 2012, but stalled in April 2013 after the two sides failed to agree on how to implement a ceasefire.

The rebels had taken up arms protesting the way the DRC government managed a March 2009 peace agreement between CNDP rebels (M23 precursors) and the government, which mainly dealt with integrating the rebels into the army.

For now, the government considers the M23’s grievances to have been resolved, hence the need to end the talks.

“We are returning to the negotiating table in Kampala, not for further debates on the rebels’ new grievances, but for the final conclusions from the mediator as we consider that all has been said and agreed upon,” Mr Francois Mwamba, a DRC government delegate, told reporters before leaving Kinshasa.

The International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) gave 14 days to the two delegations to conclude the talks and sign a new agreement.

Opposition figures

However, for the rebels, some points on the agenda have not been resolved yet.

Mr René Abandi, the leader of the M23 movement, did not detail which points they think are outstanding.

In the meantime, the ICGLR has called the rebels to immediately disband; they have responded that they will not do so before the Rwandan Hutu militias of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) have been disarmed.

The national dialogue in Kinshasa aims at uniting the internal social and political groups in order to attain a measure of cohesion.

According to DRC President Joseph Kabila, the dialogue must reach a common ground in order to fight what he called “an external danger of balkanisation of the country”, referring to the alleged backing of the M23 rebels by neighbouring Rwanda.

For the DRC President, the emerging issues to be discussed in Kinshasa are about governance, national reconciliation, and decentralisation.

The dialogue was scheduled to start on Monday, but it only got going the following day.

Around 700 people are taking part in the talks, though two prominent opposition figures – Etienne Tshisekedi of UPDS and Vital Kamerhe of UNC – are boycotting.

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