At least 10 presidents from the Great Lakes region are expected to converge for an emergency meeting in Kampala this Saturday to discuss the ongoing hostilities in eastern DR Congo.
The fall of Goma, North Kivu’s commercial capital, to M23 rebels is said to have precipitated the weekend summit of the International Conference for Great Lakes region (ICGLR).
Despite presidents Museveni, Kagame and Kabila meeting on Tuesday night and Wednesday, the ministers from ICGLR, who have separately been meeting in Kampala, resolved that there was need for all heads of state from the regional body to participate in the process.
The fall of Goma
The permanent secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr James Mugume, Wednesday said the decision to have the summit was prompted by the fall of Goma. “It was decided yesterday that we have this meeting and the presidents will discuss the concept of deployment of an international neutral force and mediation between Kinshasa and the rebels,” he said.
On Wednesday, it reported that a calm settled over Goma as a number of Congolese government forces who had defected were registered after handing over their guns to the rebels.
The presidents will on Saturday discuss the logistics necessary for deployment of the neutral force.
They are also expected to address themselves to the United Nations Security Council for approval of the deployment of the proposed 4,000 neutral forces from Tanzania, Kenya, DR Congo and Angola. Tanzania has already pledged 500 soldiers for the mission and is likely to command the force.
President Museveni has been meeting his Congolese and Rwandan counterparts since Tuesday to help end the hostilities. By press time, the presidents were still in closed meetings and no statement had been issued on what the three had agreed on. “We are still waiting for them to finish and see whether they will issue a statement or not,” Mr Mugume said.
Meanwhile, the United States government issued a statement, warning the rebels and asking that they withdraw from Goma and hand over the city to Congolese forces. “We condemn the renewed military campaign by the M23 rebel group, which is an affront to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the DRC and in violation of international law. We call for a ceasefire, and for the M23 to return Goma to DRC authorities and pull back to their July positions,” the statement said.
The US Department of State spokesperson, Ms Victoria Nuland, called on Uganda and Rwanda to use their “influence on M23” to immediately end the hostilities. Uganda and Rwanda have been accused by the UN group of experts of supporting the rebels, an allegation both countries have denied.