David Zounmenou:"M23 rebel group in DRC weakened by leadership problems"
The UN special envoy to the Great Lakes region, Mary Robinson is visiting the volatile eastern region of the DRC, as fighting between M23 rebels and Congolese troops backed by UN forces continues.
Her one week visit will also take her to neighboring Uganda and Rwanda. The top UN official is responsible for trying to implement a framework agreement, signed in February, to bring about peace in North and South Kivu.
DW: What is it that she possibly can achieve with this visit?
David Zounmenou: The visit is very important given the escalation of violence in the region. The visit will certainly call on various actors to show restraint and put an end to the violence and probably reinvigorate the negotiation process which will help to avoid the kind of catastrophic scenario that we are now foreseeing.
It must be me. I can't see the situation as it is at the moment in Goma, as a catastrophe unless we are looking at it from the perspective of M23. I personally don't give a toss what happens to those murderous bastards. This is exactly the scenario that the UN Security Council envisaged when it authorised the Intervention Brigade ( Africa Brigade ). Voice of America reports:GOMA — Residents of Goma, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, are optimistic that the withdrawal of M23 rebels from positions outside the city could bring an end to fighting in the area. The situation is still volatile, as tensions with neighboring Rwanda remain high.
Days after the shelling stopped, the Virunga market in Goma is starting to shuffle back to life.
It’s Sunday - a typically slow day - but many of the shops here are open. Women are folding colorful fabrics, and customers are walking through rows of used blue jeans hanging from wooden posts.
Should a war break out with Rwanda then it might be fair to describe it as a catastrophe. That said Rwanda has to confronted about its ongoing human rights violations in the DR Congo. It is the worlds job to keep the situation under control, we owe the people of Goma that at the very least.
How much influence does she have on the region, will she be able to achieve what she hopes to achieve?
The region has been in the spotlight for a few months now. I think everybody knows what is at stake if nothing is done and that is the reason why the UN has stepped up the game by consolidating the mandate of its peacekeeping mission and by warning the regional actors that have been involved in the conflict to stop providing the support to rebel fighters in the area. So I think she stands a chance to speak to various actors and to call them back to negotiations.
I have no objection to a talk fest but that is all it can be. There is no accommodation possible with M23 they have three choices unconditional surrender, withdrawal to Rwanda or death. Rwanda will not respond to carrots so it must be the stick. The Intervention Brigade and MONUSCO is part Mary Robinson's stick. Good to see it being used so effectively.
Shouldn't she have visited the region before the situation escalated?
I think the UN has always been visiting the region. Ban Ki Moon accompanied by the World Bank chief has recently visited Congo to see what was happening on the ground. But there has also been a difficult political process of negotiations unfolding in Kampala. It seems to me the government in Kinshasa didn't give the process the full attention and political commitment it deserves because Kinshasa believes that the M23 organization is at its weakest point for two reasons: Firstly, because the support from Rwanda has dried up probably because of the outcry of the UN group of experts' report and secondly, the leadership issue within the M23 group itself, the sanctions, the departure of Bosco Ntaganda and the dismissal of the political head Bishop Jean Marie Runiga. So all these factors gave Kinshasa the impression that they can step up the game and defeat the group once and for all.
I am skeptical about support from Rwanda having dried up. Jason Stearns at Congo Siasa blogs:
The most recent fighting appears to have triggered renewed Rwandan support to the rebels, according to UN and diplomatic sources. According to one such source, the M23 launched an attack on FARDC positions in the night of August 22/23, leading UN military observers to believe that the M23 had night-vision equipment. The UN mission has also reported to the Security Council that Rwanda has provided such support. A diplomat told me that his country, a Security Council member, had also confirmed Rwandan support to the M23 in the recent fighting and had spoken with authorities in Kigali about this. According to the same source, most important donors in Kigali were on the same page in this regard.
I have no doubt Kinshasa sees this as an opportunity to rid the Eastern DR Congo of the M23 cancer. I suspect it might be more than just an impression from their perspective. I agree with their thinking.
Where does the current situation leave the Peace, Security and cooperation agreement signed in February 2013? Is it dead or there's still hope that it can be implemented?
I think the agreement still stands and still holds and I think we can still hope for sustainable peace in the Great Lakes region. This is because the agreement signed did give the responsibility to the various actors involved in the conflict. It is up to countries supporting the groups fighting in the DRC to stop doing so and for the Congolese local authorities to undertake political reforms as per the agreement. I think it's time for a political dialogue that will help all countries in the region to avoid a deplorable situation.
Not so sure about that. It will I suspect depend on what happens at the ICGLR meeting this week. I think that Kabila's attendance at the meeting is a mistake and he should have sent if any one a junior official.
The UN has constantly accused Uganda and Rwanda for supporting the M23, what sort of welcome should she expect from these two countries?
It will be tough and extremely difficult but you also have to understand that Rwanda feels a bit isolated currently and has a limited margin of maneuver. So it will be an opportunity for them to give the other side of the story.
That is hilarious. Rwanda really needs another opportunity to lie.
David Zounmenou is a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, South Africa