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Formula for DR Congo peace still elusive

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Regional initiative seeking negotiated deal fights to remain relevant in eastern DRC as UN-backed intervention gains traction. TEA Graphic

Regional initiative seeking negotiated deal fights to remain relevant in eastern DRC as UN-backed intervention gains traction. TEA Graphic  Nation Media Group

By LEE MWITI The EastAfrican

Posted  Saturday, August 3   2013 at  13:06

In Summary

  • But beneath the surface of the just-ended special summit of the Great Lakes countries was a concerted effort by the major players to shift the focus of the conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) back to a negotiated deal.
  • The new 3,000-strong force crafted from the existing Monusco is in the strife-torn eastern Congo to aggressively neutralise various armed rebel groups and is seen as a game changer. Kampala and Kigali grudgingly accepted the UN force.
  • But analysts say its would leave Rwanda and Uganda, which have been variously accused of fomenting the unrest in the Kivu regions, shorn of major influence in the region, hence their preference for a “regional solution.”

On the face of it, the just-ended special summit of the Great Lakes countries did not offer any radical solution to the deteriorating security situation in Central Africa.

But beneath the surface of the summit, held under the umbrella of the 11-member International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), was a concerted effort by the major players, especially Rwanda and Uganda, to shift the focus of the conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) back to a negotiated deal, even as consensus around an exceptional United Nations military-backed intervention deepens.

Unanimously backed by the UN Security Council’s Resolution 2098, the new 3,000-strong force crafted from the existing Monusco is in the strife-torn eastern Congo to aggressively neutralise various armed rebel groups and is seen as a game changer.

But analysts say its would leave Rwanda and Uganda, which have been variously accused of fomenting the unrest in the Kivu regions, shorn of major influence in the region, hence their preference for a “regional solution.”

However, careful not to be seen to be going against the growing international consensus around the conflict that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and displaced millions of people, Kampala and Kigali, which vigorously deny having a hand in it, grudgingly accepted the UN force.

However, they have continued to lobby, behind the scenes, for a non-military settlement, in part informing the recent push for the ICGLR to reclaim its space.

Ultimatum to disarm

A UN ultimatum for residents around the strategic eastern DRC town of Goma to disarm expired on Thursday night, and the brigade is expected to forcibly establish a security zone around it and the nearby Sake.

Both towns briefly fell into the hands of the March 23 Movement (M23) last year.

It is in this context of the interventionist option gaining traction to the perceived detriment of a negotiated deal that the extraordinary heads of state summit of the ICGLR was convened by its chair, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who prodded Nairobi, perceived as more neutral, to host the talks.

Uganda has struggled to shed the image of being a major conduit for illegal trade in Congolese minerals, especially gold, and a protagonist in the war-weary region.

The ICGLR established the Kampala dialogue between the Joseph Kabila-led DRC government and the notorious M23 rebels last December but it has been flagging.

The M23, which launched an uprising against Kinshasa, walked out of the talks in April following the announcement of the intervention brigade.

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