Friday, September 6, 2013

Congo says to return to negotiations with rebels on Monday

Good People,

This is a clear failed leadership of Kabila to accept to negotiate
Congolese land with M23.  The world must protect Congo people
land and safeguard their security, livelihood and survival.  It is
about time Kabila step down or be given a vote of no confidence
after failing to protect the Congo people......................

Judy Miriga
Diaspora Spokesperson &
Executive Director for
Confederation Council Foundation for Africa

Congo says to return to negotiations with rebels on Monday

September 6th 2013

Bienvenu Bakumanya 3 hours ago

By Bienvenu Bakumanya

KINSHASA (Reuters) - Democratic Republic of Congo said on Friday it would return to negotiations with eastern rebels next week after regional leaders set a two-week deadline for peace talks to end an 18-month-old rebellion.

A summit of five African presidents from the Great Lakes region called on Thursday for Congo to restart the stalled talks with the M23 insurgents within three days, after military successes left the government in a stronger position.

With the help of a new U.N. Intervention Brigade, which has a tough mandate to neutralize armed groups, Congo's army has pushed M23 fighters away from Goma, a city of 1 million people on the shores of Lake Kivu.

Congolese President Joseph Kabila opened Ugandan-hosted talks with the M23 after the rebels briefly seized Goma late last year but negotiations stalled as the government pursued a military solution. Peace talks with the Tutsi rebels are unpopular with many in the vast, former Belgian colony.

The insurgents have repeatedly called for a return to the negotiating table.

"Democratic Republic of Congo will be present in Kampala on Monday, in accordance with the heads of state statement," Congolese government spokesman Lambert Mende said. "If the minister is not there, the ambassador will be there."

Francois Mwamba, spokesman for Congo's delegation in Kampala, told Reuters that Ugandan mediators were due to present a draft peace deal on Monday and the two sides would then have two weeks to present their amendments.

Millions of people have died from violence, disease and hunger since the 1990s as foreign-backed ethnic rebel groups have fought for control of eastern Congo's rich deposits of gold, diamonds and tin, destabilizing the Great Lakes region.

Kinshasa had recently insisted it would not negotiate with M23 until it laid down its weapons. The rebels accuse Congo of violating a 2009 peace deal which pledged to incorporate its fighters into the army, and of supporting Hutu rebels in the region who have terrorized the local Tutsi population.

A military standoff has prevailed since the M23 pulled back to Kibumba, some 30 km (18 miles) north of Goma, last week with U.N. forces reluctant to pursue the rebels deep into the forests of North Kivu province.

Tensions have been fanned by accusations from U.N. experts that Rwanda is backing the rebels. Kigali denies supporting M23 but last week threatened to send its army into Congo after it accused its neighbor of shelling its territory.

Mary Robinson, U.N. Special Envoy to the Great Lakes region, said a peace deal would not be made at the expense of holding people accountable for war committed in eastern Congo.

"We are not going to repeat the errors of the past. We are very convinced that we do not need an amnesty for people who have committed serious crimes," Robinson said, according to U.N. Radio Okapi, in comments translated from French.

(Writing by Daniel Flynn; Editing by David Lewis and Mark Heinrich)

Correction: Congo-Peace Talks story

September 6th 2013

8 hours ago

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — In a story Sept. 6 about Congo's peace talks, The Associated Press reported erroneously that Congolese troops had engaged in hand-to-hand combat with rebels in eastern Congo. We should have reported that the Congolese troops had engaged in ground combat.

A corrected version of the story is below:

Congo, Rwanda leaders meet in Uganda over rebels

Congo, Rwanda presidents meet in Uganda over rebels in eastern Congo, push for talks to resume


Associated Press

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The presidents of Congo and Rwanda on Thursday called for peace talks to quickly resume between the Congolese government and a rebel movement that is widely believed to be backed by Rwanda.

The summit organized in Uganda's capital marked a rare opportunity for Congolese President Joseph Kabila and Rwandan President Paul Kagame to hold face-to-face meetings at a time when their countries are on edge over Rwanda's alleged military involvement in eastern Congo.

The negotiations between the Congolese government and the M23 rebels have repeatedly stalled since late last year.

In a statement issued late Thursday, the presidents and other regional leaders called for peace talks to resume within three days' time "and conclude within a maximum period of 14 days during which maximum restraint must be exercised on the ground to allow for talks to conclude."

In August, Congolese troops backed by U.N. forces battled M23 rebels near the eastern city of Goma, home to nearly 1 million people along the Rwandan border. Rwanda accused the Congolese military of firing missiles across the border and warned that "this provocation can no longer be tolerated."

Then the M23 rebels last week declared a unilateral cease-fire following a week of heavy fighting with the Congolese troops, saying they wanted to "give peace a chance," although Congo's government said it wants M23 disbanded.

Congo's government now will be less keen on the talks as its army and a newly strengthened U.N. intervention force appear to have the upper hand in the most recent clashes with the rebels, according to Jason Stearns, a Congo expert who runs the Usalama Project, a think tank that researches Congo's armed groups.

"The primary drive to get back to the negotiating table is coming from Uganda and Rwanda," he said. "They (Congo's government) feel that they are in a position of strength."

Congo's government would be interested in talks that can lead to "the decapitation of M23," he added.

Thursday's meeting in the Ugandan capital of Kampala was called by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni "to stop the fighting and get back on the negotiating table," according to James Mugume, the permanent secretary at Uganda's Foreign Ministry.

The summit in Kampala was organized under the banner of a regional bloc called the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region. It also was attended by United Nations special envoy Mary Robinson, who has urged a political solution to a crisis that recently threatened to spill over Congo's borders.

In their statement Thursday, the presidents said they "strongly condemn" the deaths of civilians on both sides of the border and also urged M23 to stop its threats.

"M23 should put an end to all military activities, and stop war and threats of overthrowing the lawful government of (Congo)," said the statement signed by the presidents including Rwanda's Kagame.

Rwanda denies backing the rebels despite multiple U.N. reports citing evidence to the contrary. One U.N. report said Rwandans join M23 in small groups, hiking across footpaths into Congo. Rwanda also has supplied the rebels with arms and sophisticated equipment, including night vision goggles, the report said.

In the latest fighting, however, Congolese troops were boosted by a special intervention brigade of U.N. troops who, unlike the other 17,000 peacekeepers stationed in the vast nation, have a mandate to attack the rebels. The U.N. brigade shelled rebel positions with artillery as Congolese troops engaged the rebels in ground combat, support that may have pushed the rebels to retreat and declare the cease-fire.

It stood in stark contrast to last November, when the U.N. troops were unable to stop the M23 rebels from briefly overtaking Goma before withdrawing under international pressure.

M23 is made up of hundreds of Congolese soldiers mostly from the Tutsi ethnic group who deserted the national army last year after accusing the government of failing to honor the terms of a deal signed in March 2009. Even before the creation of the M23 in 2012, eastern Congo's forest-covered hills have harbored other rebel groups, ethnic militias and renegade units of the regular army.


Associated Press writer Krista Larson in Dakar, Senegal contributed to this report.

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