NEWS ANAYLSIS - A roundtable Conference on Peace, Security and Development in the Kivus opened on Sunday at Université Libre des pays des Grands Lacs in Goma without the presence of DR Congo President Joseph Kabila.
Being the prominent authority that initiated the conference, Kabila had been expected to attend Sunday’s opening, at least to highlight the importance he accorded to it, but he surprisingly pulled out at the last minute. President Kabila’s failure to attend has been interpreted by analysts as a sign that nothing tangible will come out of the ongoing conference.
Regional countries as well as international and multilateral organizations have been invited to participate in this Conference.
The Conference also brought together the representatives of all communities from the eastern DRC, national and internationals NGOs, international community, civil society, national and provincial ministers and parliamentarians from Kivus, CNDP delegates and some delegates from regional countries.
Political representatives from the DRC militia groups, PARECO, MAI MAI created to combat Nkunda’s rebellion have also attended. Nkunda’s CNDP has also sent a delegation to this conference, an indication that he is willing to negotiate.
It is important to note however that, according to article 2 of the Conference Internal Regulations, “the Conference’s purpose will be to consider and propose to the government means and ways of how to build the frameworks of sustainable peace in the North and South Kivu provinces.”
The conference bureau will later submit the agreed proposals to the Cabinet for approval with the State Minister of internal affairs, the Minister of Finance, and the Minister in charge of Budget acting as the key government officials responsible for the implementation of the resolutions of this Conference.
Indeed, in his opening address, Interior Minister Gen. Denis Kalume who represented President Kabila, reminded the participants that “this conference is not meant for power sharing or to negotiate with any body but to jointly spell out any thing which would return peace in both Kivus.” While the Chairman of the organizing committee of the Conference, Fr Malu Malu insisted that “the conference is not the venue to change the constitutional order or challenge institutions resulting from last year elections.”
Instead, in what would appear contrary to the very spirit of the conference, the minister summoned all renegade Congolese armed groups to lay down their weapons and be integrated into the national army.
And somehow out of point, Kalume also called for foreign militia to join a voluntary disarmament programme that would lead to their repatriation under the protection of the international community, putting forward the Alliance for the Presidential Majority expressed “common position that the question of FDLR is an international issue and must be solved by the International Community” through the FDLR illusory wished inter Rwandese dialogue.
One should remember here however that, under the deal reached in Nairobi, Congolese and Rwandan foreign ministers agreed that Congo’s army would forcibly disarm the Rwandan Hutu rebels operating in the east.
Instead, a growing body of evidence indicates that the Congolese government continues to collaborate with the FDLR.
Though these militias were not formally invited, there is information that a delegation of six FDLR representatives are already in Goma, at the sidelines of the conference.
They are reportedly residing at the residences of Hutu extremists such as MP Barihima and Sekimonyo who share the same agenda with the FDLR. Currently, MP Barihima together with the FDLR President, Ignace Murwanashyaka are seriously campaigning for the FDLR representatives to attend the Conference.
Though the DRC government officially announced the suspension of all military operations against rebels in Nord-Kivu in order to lay the groundwork for the talks, facts on ground indicate continued troop movements and reinforcements.
As a matter of fact, the FARDC has continued to reorganise and has continued its troop movements, an indication that it is preparing for war.
Available information indicates that the FARDC eighth Military Region is being reinforced by Bdes from the nineth and 10th Military regions. The 17th Brigade from the nineth Military region is currently moving its troops to Rutshuro-Nyanzale axis to replace the 15th Brigade commanded by Col. Mwungura (Munyamulenge).
The eighth Brigade from the 10th Military region is also currently moving its forces to Minova, Karuba-Ngungu axis to replace the 14th Brigade under Col. Rugayi (a Hutu). Accused of collaboration with the enemy, Col. Rugayi, was arrested on December 30, 2007 and is currently detained at the FARDC 10th Military region Headquarters in Bukavu.
Analysts have already expressed doubts about the outcome of this conference arguing that it only aims at giving legitimacy to Kabila both locally and internationally as a pacifist, whilst he mobilizes public support to wage war against Nkunda.
Even local stakekeholders are not quite at ease with the undertakings and most of all the way it was prepared. Since the advertisement of the holding of the conference, civil society representatives from North and South Kivu have been threatening to boycott the conference.
Reasons given include the rushed organization of the conference, judged impossible as the clashes continued with no cease fire in sight; the lack of consultation of civil society during the preparatory process of the conference, and under representation of civil society in the list of participants presented by the organizers.
Given the above facts, the international community should not expect anything tangible from the peace, security and development Conference on the Kivus since the Kinshasa government is still determined to engage CNDP of Gen. Laurent Nkunda militarily. The international community should instead maintain pressure on the DRC government to initiate peace talks with the CNDP on the practical ways of restoring lasting peace, security and development in the Kivus.
DRC authorities should consider eliminating the threat posed by the FDLR/Interahamwe. Unfortunately, for the Congolese citizens and most of all those precisely in the Kivus, President Kabila and his buddies do not seem much interested in such approach.
The continuation of war will only increase instability in the eastern DRC, especially as Nkunda’s forces are determined to resist particularly since they have no other option given the threat the Tutsi community is facing.
The much cherished FDLR option of an inter Rwandese dialogue is likely a DRC payback option to FDLR, as the meeting is being used as a stamp by the Kinshasa government as a peoples outcome, and as such get a leeway to opt out of the Nairobi understanding.
Will this FDLR-Kinshasa agenda hijack lead to tangible solutions or an escalation of conflict?