Tag Archives: Kivu

Peace Deal Between DRC and M23 Delayed Indefinitely

As noted earlier here and explained in more detail in a good piece over at War is Boring, the announcement by DRC authorities that the M23 rebel group had suffered military defeat did not necessarily carry much weight for the future of Africa’s Great Lakes region.  This has turned out very quickly to more than mere idle speculation as Ugandan mediators said today that it appeared that a peace deal that had planned to be signed today between DRC authorities and M23 rebels has apparently been postponed indefinitely.

Map of the Democratic Republic of Congo showing the approximate zone of conflict.  The city of Goma has historically been a major point of contention and one can see the tri-border region with Uganda and Rwanda.

Map of the Democratic Republic of Congo showing the approximate zone of conflict. The city of Goma has historically been a major point of contention and one can see the tri-border region with Uganda and Rwanda.

Uganda, which has been mediating between the two groups since last December, said that while the DRC delegation was in Entebbe to sign the agreement, they had requested to read the final text of the agreement before entering the conference room for the signing.  The ceremony was suspended indefinitely after the DRC contingent spent over four hours going over the text.  Ugandan officials said the they conferred in private so it was unclear what specific issues with the text there might be.

It is not too hard to imagine a possible complaints the DRC delegation may have had.  The biggest is probably the fate of M23 members who have fled into Uganda.  Possible amnesty or reintegration of certain members of the M23 group had already been a major stumbling block in negotiations.  On Friday, the Ugandan government made it clear it would not deport fleeing M23 members back to the DRC.  While Ugandan officials made it clear that the fate of these individuals would have to be a component of any peace deal, it also said that those not wishing to return to the DRC would not be forcibly repatriated and would instead be turned over to UN agencies to see whether they qualified for refugee status.  This no doubt is compounded by previous accusations of Uganda actively supporting the M23 rebellion along with Rwanda.

UPDATE (11/12/13): The DRC’s Information Minister Lambert Mende has effectively confirmed the above suspicions by accusing the Ugandans as acting like a party to the conflict.  The DRC also wanted the agreement to be called a “declaration” rather than an “accord” or “peace agreement” as sought by the Ugandans and M23.  The DRC is of the view that calling it a peace agreement gives the text different weight and M23 increased legitimacy, despite that fact that M23’s leadership had already unilaterally called for an end to its armed struggle in DRC.  In response, Ugandan authorities said that without an agreement M23 could still regroup.  Uganda’s Deputy Foreign Minister Okello Oryem added that M23 chief Sultani Makenga, who fled to Uganda, was not a prisoner and that his status would only be resolved in an agreement between the DRC and the rebel group.  Rwanda, also accused of having support M23 in DRC, has been notably silent on the events.

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Rebellion in Eastern DRC Over…Until its Not

On 5 November 2013, M23 President Bertrand Bisimwa released a statement that requested rebel commanders prepare fighters for “disarmament, demobilization and social reintegration.”  This announcement comes as Congolese government spokesman Lambert Mende told members of the press that military operations effectively ended overnight, following the capture of rebel positions in the tri-border region between DRC, Uganda, and Rwanda.  The rebel held areas in Tshanzu and Runyoni had been the only ones still in M23 control as DRC Armed Forces (FARDC) and UN elements had continued a major offensive against the group.  African leaders meeting in South Africa to discuss the security situation in the Great Lakes region had also called for an end to the fighting.

Map of the Democratic Republic of Congo showing the approximate zone of conflict.  The city of Goma has historically been a major point of contention and one can see the tri-border region with Uganda and Rwanda.

Map of the Democratic Republic of Congo showing the approximate zone of conflict. The city of Goma has historically been a major point of contention and one can see the tri-border region with Uganda and Rwanda.

The future of the region, however, remains uncertain.  For one, Bisimwa has already stated that he intends to continue to pursue his group’s goals through political means.  This highlights that while M23 may be militarily defeated, its leadership does not view the matter as settled.  The sources of conflict between ethnic Tutsi in DRC’s Kivu region and the central government remain unresolved, as does the issue of alleged involvement of Uganda and Rwanda in supporting ethnic Tutsi aspirations in the region.

M23 itself had spawned from rebels who had previously fought the central government over similar grievances before coming to an agreement in 2009 and being integrated into the FARDC.  It is also not the first time DRC authorities have tried this, having attempted to integrate National Committee for the Defense of the People (CNDP) rebels into the FARDC as part of a peace plan in 2006, which also failed to produce a lasting peace.  Unless the government has a way to address the significant differences in opinion, there is nothing to suggest that a similar outcome is not in the offing.  This is especially so seeing as members of M23, notably its military chief Sultani Makenga, were reported to have fled into either Uganda or Rwanda, rather than enter into a disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) process.  One can only hope that the DRC’s government will take advantage of this military victory to address the sources of conflict, possibly with the help of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR).

M23 Rebels Call for Ceasefire as African Leaders Prepare for Summit

The leader of the M23 rebel group, operating in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s historically restive eastern region, issued a statement today calling for a cease-fire with the central government.  Bertrand Bisimwa’s call comes as government forces continue to make gains against M23 strongholds and as African leaders prepare to meet in South Africa to discuss a way forward in the Great Lakes Region.

UN-backed talks between the DRC government and M23 rebels, being held in Uganda, were said to have stalled in October.  The major point of disagreement was reported to be the desire by M23 negotiators to secure an amnesty for their members.  The DRC government is likely wary of issuing such an amnesty given M23’s history, having spawned from demobilized rebels who were integrated into the DRC security forces in 2009 as part of a previous peace agreement.

United Nations peacekeeping forces have also been active in attempting to protect civilians from the conflict.  Concerned by the persistence of the conflict in the country’s east earlier this year, the United Nations approved the activation of a reaction brigade in DRC in response to the expanding crisis in the country’s east.  The activities of this brigade, authorized to take more offensive action, have also been seen as a reason for government government victories against the M23 group.

DRC’s eastern region, notably the Kivu region, has seen persistent conflict for years now due to various issues, including its ethnography.  M23’s members are primary ethnic Tutsi, and have been reported to received assistance from Rwanda and Uganda, though both countries have denied this.  M23 is also only the latest in a series of rebel groups, which the DRC government has continually attempted to strike deals with and otherwise integrate into its security forces.

This perpetual conflict in Africa’s Great Lakes Region prompted a meeting between the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), which led to an agreement in February to continue to coordinate and seek lasting peace in the region.  Another summit organized by the SADC and ICGLR is scheduled to begin tomorrow.