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UN sanctions complicate Congolese peace efforts

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DRC's President Joseph Kabila (centre) and Rwanda’s Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo (extreme right) at an earlier meeting in Uganda. It is not clear whether the M23 rebels will attend the next meeting on January 7 following UN sanctions. Photo/FILE

DRC's President Joseph Kabila (centre) and Rwanda’s Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo (extreme right) at an earlier meeting in Uganda. It is not clear whether the M23 rebels will attend the next meeting on January 7 following UN sanctions. Photo/FILE  Nation Media Group

By GAAKI KIGAMBO Special Correspondent

Posted  Saturday, January 5  2013 at  18:14

In Summary

  • The ban against M23 as a group and its chairperson Bishop Jean-Marie Runiga Lugerero, announced on New Year’s eve, essentially restricts the M23 team from travelling to the venue of the talks in Uganda, unless the Ugandan government is willing to defy the sanctions.
  • At a press conference on January 3, from their stronghold in Bunagana, the rebels stated that they would only resume talks if the government signed onto the permanent ceasefire arrangement.
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The UN Security Council travel ban and asset freeze against the M23 rebels, and the rebels’ insistence that Kinshasa signs onto a permanent ceasefire, could jeopardise ongoing peace talks which were due to resume on January 7, in Kampala.

The ban against M23 as a group and its chairperson Bishop Jean-Marie Runiga Lugerero, announced on New Year’s eve, essentially restricts the M23 team from travelling to the venue of the talks at the lakeside Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort in Uganda, unless the Ugandan government is willing to defy the sanctions.

Although senior Ugandan officials argued that the UN Security Council could grant special exceptions to allow the mediation effort to continue, they could not say if this had been done.

However, they confirmed that they were expecting the 24-person rebel delegation in Kampala on January 4.

The team is led by John Serge Kambasu Ngeve, who heads the Department of Reconciliation and National Unity in the rebels’ pseudo administration.

Bertrand Bisimwa, who heads the rebels’ communication and is part of the peace delegation, also confirmed to The EastAfrican on January 4 that the group was on its way to Kampala.

Col Paddy Ankunda, the media advisor to Uganda’s Foreign Minister Dr Crispus Kiyonga, the talks’ chief facilitator, says a series of meetings have been lined up to see how to engage all stakeholders, including the UN, over the sanctions.

“The UN is aware there is a peace process going on and so they cannot be the ones to impede it,” Col Ankunda told The EastAfrican.

“Everyone is interested in a peaceful resolution, especially the neighbours in the region who are directly affected by conflict in eastern Congo. Anybody who is opposed to this is on the wrong side of history because we will prevail and succeed,” he added.

According to Ambassador James Mugume, Uganda’s co-ordinator of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, which is overseeing the talks, “The Great Lakes Region will have to engage the [Security] Council to review the decision and let some people within M23 to continue with the negotiations.”

Mr Mugume added that the “[The sanctions] obviously have a negative impact here and there. We would have to wait and see what the [Security] Council decides when it is approached.”

Collapse of the peace talks would raise the spectre of renewed conflict in eastern Congo.

The first round of the preliminary peace talks broke off on an unpromising note after the government delegation declined to enter a permanent ceasefire agreement that the rebels had demanded, fuelling accusations by the rebels that Kinshasa was buying time to reinforce on all fronts in readiness to attack their positions, which extend to the outskirts of Goma – a mere three kilometres from the city centre.

“We withdrew from Goma in exchange for dialogue. President Joseph Kabila should honour his side of the bargain,” Amani Babu, one of the rebel spokespeople, told The EastAfrican.

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