Kagame, Guebuza in private talks on SADC condemnation

Friday August 31 2012

Mozambican President and new chairperson of SADC Armando Guebuza delivers a speech on August 18, 2112 at the closing ceremony of the 32nd SADC summit in Maputo. During the two-day meeting, the conflict in eastern DR Congo topped the agenda. Photo/AFP

Mozambican President and new chairperson of SADC Armando Guebuza delivers a speech on August 18, 2112 at the closing ceremony of the 32nd SADC summit in Maputo. During the two-day meeting, the conflict in eastern DR Congo topped the agenda. Photo/AFP  

By Edmund Kagire

Rwanda engaged in diplomatic efforts to contain the fallout from the Southern African Development Community’s recent condemnation of its alleged role in the ongoing rebellion in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

The condemnation was made during a recent SADC Heads of State summit held in Maputo on August 17-18, where the bloc called on Rwanda “to cease immediately its interference that constitutes a threat to peace and stability, not only of the DRC, but also of the SADC region.”

Mozambican President Armando Guebuza, the current chairperson of SADC was in Kigali “to engage the government of Rwanda with the aim of urging it to stop military support to armed rebels in the DRC” as mandated by SADC Summit.

The SADC reaction was a surprise, piling more pressure on Kigali, which has repeatedly denied he allegations of its involvement in DRC, detailed in the addendum of the United Nations Group of Experts report.

However, Rwanda Today has learnt that the country’s top leadership has dismissed SADC’s “hasty condemnation,” saying it violates diplomatic principles.

A highly placed source told Rwanda Today that President Paul Kagame was not particularly “happy” with the SADC reaction on the ongoing crisis in the DRC, when actually the regional body could have been supportive of the efforts of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR).

President Kagame met his Mozambican counterpart for over an hour, after which, the Mozambican leader flew out of the country without giving any press interviews.

A statement released by the President’s Office in Kigali did not reveal much of what was discussed by the two presidents. But the executive secretary of SADC, Tomaz Salomao, who had accompanied President Guebuza, said that the talks had focused on resolving “misunderstandings,” maintaining though that SADC had based its statement on the UN report and quotes from Congolese officials.

“The most important thing is that SADC member states and Great Lakes member states work together to ensure problems faced in eastern DRC can be addressed and resolved based on a dialogue and mutual understanding of the consent of the problems on the ground,” he said.
Mr Salomao said Rwanda’s response will be officially conveyed to SADC members.

“If we need to sit down and continue the dialogue we will to do that,” he said, adding that SADC has seen Rwanda’s rebuttal to the UN.

According to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mary Baine, as the ICGLR countries plan a neutral force to monitor peace inside DRC, SADC, whose four member states namely DRC, Tanzania, Zambia and Angola are in ICGLR, will come in to support.

“The two secretariats (SADC and ICGLR) will meet and discuss how this will be done,” adding that the support, whether military, financial or otherwise, will be mapped out by the two regional organisations.

However, little has emerged on the progress of the 11 ICGLR member countries putting together a home-made monitoring force that will ensure the return to peace in the volatile eastern DRC.

It remains unclear as to when the force will be ready, its composition and source of funding, as the rebels continue to hold their positions.

ICGLR Heads of States will meet again in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia “soon,” according to available information, after the Horn of African country emerges from mourning the death of prime minister Meles Zenawi. His death has also been seen as a major setback in regional peace processes.

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