DR Congo and M23 rebels should return to the negotiating table and resolve their differences without recourse to war, regional Heads of State have said.
Meeting at an emergency summit at the Commonwealth Resort Hotel, Munyonyo in Uganda, the leaders agreed that the offensive against M23 rebel group be halted to allow for peace talks in Kampala to resume.
The meeting was called by President Yoweri Museveni in his capacity as chairperson of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), a regional peace and security body bringing together 12 member countries.
Last year, Kinshasa and the M23 started peace talks mediated by the Ugandan government following regional pressure. But the talks halted with the rebels accusing Kinshasa of refusing to negotiate.
There has been renewed fighting in recent weeks, between the Congolese troops (FARDC), backed by UN peacekeepers, and the M23 rebels.
It is alleged that FARDC are also fighting alongside the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a militia group largely blamed for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
The fighting has sucked in the UN Intervention Brigade, sanctioned by New York purportedly to “eliminate all armed groups” inside the vast African territory.
The fighting has flared tension between DR Congo and Rwanda, which is protesting the shelling into Rubavu District by Congolese forces and FDLR rebels from across the border.
In a communiqué, the ICGLR Heads of State directed that; “the Kampala dialogue resumes within three days after this extra ordinary summit and conclude within a maximum period of 14 days during which maximum restraint must be exercised on the ground to allow for talks to resume.”
The emergency regional summit was also attended by Presidents Paul Kagame (Rwanda), Joseph Kabila (DR Congo), Jakaya Kikwete (Tanzania) and South Sudan’s Salva Kiir.
President Museveni said there has been success, with the support of the international community, in all struggles where Africa takes the lead in finding solutions to its own challenges.
“We are seeking a path of dialogue so that the M23 come out peacefully to enable the UN intervention brigade deal with other negative forces in eastern DR Congo,” Museveni said.
The mineral-rich country has witnessed decades of war, leaving a large number of people dead and forcing hundreds of thousands of others to flee to neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda.
Aid for refugees
Museveni called for more aid from the international community to the thousands of refugees that fled the DR Congo crisis to neighbouring countries.
On the recent shelling into Rwanda from the DR Congo territory that resulted into the death of an innocent woman in the border district of Rubavu, the presidents directed the Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism (EJVM) to complete verification process and provide a report to the chairperson of the committee of the ministers of defence as soon as possible.
The leaders also requested the UN system to urgently find a definitive solution to the former M23 combatants interned in eastern Rwanda since March 2013.
This was the seventh ICGLR Extraordinary Heads of State and Government summit on the Congo crisis since the M23 rebellion broke out in April, 2012.
The summit was preceded by meetings of ICGLR ministers for defence and foreign affairs in Kampala.
ICGLR is composed of Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, DR Congo, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Zambia.