Friday, November 29, 2013
DR Congo President Joseph Kabila eyes end to war
29 November 2013 Last updated at 12:59 ET
Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila has told residents of a town held by rebels for more than a year that he wants an end to 20 years of conflict in the region.
He has spent the past week driving from Kisangani in a 70-car convoy, which got bogged down in the region's bad roads.
He has ended his 930km- (575 mile) journey in Rutshuru, which was held by the M23 rebels for more than a year.
During his trip, he warned the region's other militias to disarm.
He told a crowd of thousands of people that he wanted an end to conflict in the area, reports the AFP news agency.
"The war which has just finished, should be the last war," he said.
This is Mr Kabila's first visit to the troubled North Kivu province since the 2011 election campaign.
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President Kabila could have flown to the east, but he had a statement to make. Despite the terrible roads and the dangerous militias active in the area, he wanted to show that no part of the Congolese territory is inaccessible to him.
However, his car got stuck in the mud several times and the presidential guards had to get out and push.
On the way to Rutshuru, he insisted the government is determined to go after all the other armed groups in eastern DR Congo.
The international community wants DR Congo and its neighbours to come up with a lasting solution to the crisis in the Great Lakes.
The government also has crucial issues to deal with before the M23 can really be consigned to the past. The Ugandan government says there are still more than 1,000 ex-rebels in Uganda. Their future is unclear. Uganda has said it will not hand them over to DR Congo unless an agreement is signed.
Military experts say some other rebel groups will not be easy to defeat. They operate very differently from the M23. They are spread out across the region, often hidden among the local population, making it difficult to clearly target them.
The mineral-rich area has been wracked by conflict for the past two decades but the defeat of the M23 has raised some hopes of a more stable future.'Dry our tears'
"I wish you a long-lasting peace," the president said, warning against revenge attacks and tribalism.
The BBC's Maud Jullien in Rutshuru says the day was declared a public holiday in the town and some people were prevented from farming their fields and encouraged to go to see the president.
"We are very happy, because we have suffered here under the M23 administration for over a year, and now the president has come to dry our tears," said a young man in the stadium as he waited for the president to arrive.
But many local residents are afraid that the peace will not last, our correspondent says.
"The root causes of the problem are regional, and they haven't been resolved. There needs to be a regional agreement," said one man, Bienfait.
"The M23 is gone now but there is nothing to indicate that there won't be an M24 tomorrow or an M25 after that."
Both Rwanda and Uganda have denied repeated accusations that they supported the M23.
The international community has been calling on regional leaders to come up with a lasting solution to the crisis in the Great Lakes, as well as urging the M23 and the Congolese government to return to peace talks in Uganda and sign a deal.
"We know very well that a military victory alone is not good enough, there must be a political concept behind it," said the head of UN mission in Congo, Martin Kobler.
According to the authorities in Kampala, there are still more than 1,000 ex-rebels in Uganda, including its leaders.
Uganda has said it will not hand them over to DR Congo unless an agreement is signed.
Many other armed groups remain active in eastern DR Congo.
The country is two-thirds the size of Western Europe but after decades of conflict and mismanagement, has hardly any tarred roads outside the capital, Kinshasa.
The president flew the 1,200km to Kisangani before carrying on by road.
Our correspondent says he wanted to make a statement - that no part of the Congolese territory is inaccessible to him.
Mr Kabila has been driving himself but his car got stuck in the mud several times and the presidential guards had to get out and push the vehicle.
The president was accompanied by the minister of infrastructure, who has said emergency construction works have begun, before full renovation works by two Chinese companies begin.
The M23 rebels called an end to their insurgency earlier this month, hours after the DR Congo government claimed victory after recapturing all rebel-held areas.
A robust new UN intervention brigade used helicopters to support the Congolese army against the rebel forces.