The first meeting for talks between the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and M23 rebels kicked off in Kampala, yesterday, with the former threatening to pull out of the talks if they are not given enough time to express their position.
Uganda’s Defence Minister Crispus Kiyonga is chairing the talks as the ICGLR facilitator.
ICGLR is the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region, which is facilitating the talks.
“This is the opportunity that should not be lost to achieve the desired end - a state of stability and development,” the minister said in his opening remarks.
Kiyonga invited DRC Foreign Minister Raymond Tshibanda and the M23 Executive Secretary François Rucogoza to make opening statements on behalf of their delegations.
Tshibanda said that his government is totally committed to respecting the ICGLR Heads of State resolutions to find a lasting solution to the crisis through peace negotiations.
Rucogoza expressed displeasure at the DRC government for allegedly killing forty six former CNDP soldiers who had been reintegrated into the national army and the continuous killing of Kinyarwanda-speaking Congolese.
He said that up to now, no report had been made about the killings, but that the commander, who reportedly instigated the massacres, was instead promoted.
On the closure of Bunagana border, Rucogoza wondered why Ishasha border managed by FDLR militias is still operating yet Bunagana residents continue to face an embargo.
Bunagana, which links DRC to Uganda, was closed by the latter at the request of the former over allegations that M23 rebels, who control the border on the Congolese side, were illegally making money in taxes levied on cross-border traders.
“DRC has become a threat to its neighbours because it harbours negative forces that are fighting all the countries that surround us,” Rucogoza said.
This angered the DRC minister who asked Kiyonga for more time to speak.
“We can’t allow M23 to intoxicate national and international opinion. We shall pull out of the talks if we are not given time to put our case forward,” said Tshibanda.
Kiyonga told the Congolese delegation that they will have an opportunity to state their full position.
The talks, which are expected to take place in Kampala and Goma, will last about two weeks.
The first phase of the peace talks will be on agreeing on the ground rules and the agenda, while the second phase will be the substantive talks.
The ICGLR got the breakthrough in bringing the two parties on the negotiating table after the M23 rebels, last month, overwhelmed the government forces leading to the capture of different cities, notably Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu, but later withdrew.