Regional leaders in Kampala for Congo talks
KAMPALA - At least six Heads of State from the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region are expected to attend a two-day regional summit in Kampala, Uganda, called to agree on how to address the ongoing crisis in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.
President Paul Kagame is expected to participate. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni will host the two-day summit of 11-member International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR).
Sources said Congolese President Joseph Kabila was expected last evening.
While all the 11 ICGLR member states will be represented, Jackson Abigaba, a protocol official at Uganda’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said five Heads of State had confirmed attendance.
Kinshasa has accused Rwanda of arming the M-23 mutiny which has battled regular forces in the eastern DRC since April, sending thousands of refugees across Rwanda and Ugandan borders.
A meeting of regional defence ministers held in Khartoum last week was supposed to hammer out some of the details of the force.
Regional foreign ministers holding preparatory meetings behind closed doors on Monday were discussing at least three types of forces, according to documents available at the venue.
One option would see the region’s states contribute troops and funds, and the African Union has said it is ready to contribute to such a force.
A second option is “an international and regional force incorporated into MONUSCO” and including a beefed up mandate as MONUSCO’s current mandate is limited to the protection of civilians.
The third proposal is an “interim MONUSCO force” but the document did not specify if this would be in addition to the “international and regional force.”
The 11-nation ICGLR comprises Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Zambia.
The UN published a Group of Experts document accusing Rwanda of backing the M23 Congolese rebels, a report Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Minister, Louise Mushikiwabo described as “categorically false and dangerous rumours.”
Diplomatic sources who spoke to The New Times on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, said DRC officials at the meeting still consider the UN Stabilising Mission in the Congo (MONUSCO) as a force that can play this role.
MONUSCO with more than 17,000 troops has been unsuccessful in curbing the violence in the region and has done little to protect the Congolese civilian population.
“We are opposing this effort because we want a regional solution to our regional problems, and MONUCO is mainly comprised of forces from countries that can’t understand our conflicts,” said a source.
“We should be able to mobilise troops and funds to have this neutral force in place,” the source said, citing AMISOM that has successfully brought back peace to Somalia where international players failed.
DRC’s Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, Alexander Luba Tembo, told reporters that his country supports formation of a neutral international force but was non committal on whether he supported it to replace MONUSCO.