Friday, October 25, 2013

DR Congo: M23 are running out of options, time and space.

Chimp Report reports

INSIDE STORY: Why DRC, M23 Peace Deal Delayed

The rebel M23 Movement has yet again fallen short of reaching an agreement with the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on “key security issues,” delaying the signing of a comprehensive peace deal.

                                                                         M23 military leader, Sultani Makenga

By Giles Muhame

Chimpreports on Saturday afternoon broke the news that M23 had made “major concessions on its political grievances in order to make possible the signing of the peace agreement in the coming hours.” 

“We are announcing to both national and international community that under the mediation of President Yoweri Museveni, major breakthroughs are about to be obtained in Kampala,” said the M23 political leader, Bertrand Bisiimwa, on Saturday.

However, this investigative website understands that a press conference which had been called to announce the signing of the peace agreement was called off at the last minute after DRC and M23 failed to agree on security of the militants after their disarmament. 

I was hugely sceptical of the original report which I blogged here, if for no other reason (and there were many ) than the comments made by the DR Congo Minister Mende.

Lambert Mende, a minister and Congolese government spokesman, was more circumspect, telling AFP that "breakthroughs will be measured against the final agreement," if one were signed.
"There has been some reconciliation," Mende said in Kinshasa, but stressed that although the M23 could "sign today", that would "not be the end of the problem."
“The DRC refused to guarantee security of M23 fighters after laying down their weapons. Much as they are ready to disarm, these combatants need to be assured of security during and after integration in the mainstream forces,” said a knowledgeable source who is part of the peace talks in Kampala. 

It should be remembered that a few months before the M23 rebellion, DRC forces reportedly massacred 50 CNDP soldiers after being transferred to Ddungu. 

This actually isn't the real issue, the issue is that most if not all of the senior leadership of M23 will not be integrated into the Congolese army and many of them will probably face war crimes and crimes against humanity charges. Jason Stearns at Congo Siasa points out;

" At the end, however, everything hinged, unsurprisingly, on the fate of the top M23 leadership. Since the beginning, this had been the main stumbling block. It is practically unconceivable for commanders such as Sultani Makenga and Innocent Kaina––both listed on the UN and US sanctions lists and candidates for war crimes charges––to be reintegrated into the Congolese army."

The Congolese Government has been quite firm on the issue of both war crimes and crimes against humanity.

" The negotiations in Kampala had reportedly stumbled over the question of an amnesty for the rebels and their reintegration in the army. Backed by the international community, the government in Kinshasa has said there will be no impunity for the main rebel leaders."

That leaves virtually no wriggle room for the negotiators on either side to work with. My opinion is that this is intentional on the part of Kinshasa  however that is clearly not a viewpoint that is shared by all. Again Jason Stearns from Congo Siasa.

" There is still hope for a deal, although the Congolese main negotiators will be in Kinshasa for some time now, with only a skeleton crew left in Kampala. The next step will probably be for regional powers to discuss the M23 at a joint ICGLR/SADC summit, to take place in South Africa in early November."

I just don't see it. From the Kinshasa perspective no deal is a win if they can back that up on the ground with military force. There will be no tears shed in the eastern DR Congo for M23 infact its demise I suspect will be a matter of jubilation. Against that is of course Rwanda and whether they will react in support of M23 or decide it is better to cut their losses this time and move on.

This was one of the reasons why CNDP militants, who had been integrated in the army following the 2009 peace deal, refused deployment to other parts of DRC thus touching off the 2012 insurrection. 

After breaking ranks with DRC, CNDP would later change their name to M23. Sources said such distressing memories have emboldened the M23 peace delegation, led by Rene Abandi, to press for solid security guarantees from DRC for the Movement fighters before he could pen his signature on the peace agreement.

That largely ignores the role of Rwanda and to a lesser degree Uganda both who have been to varying degrees active supporters of M23 and it would be inconceivable to suppose that the major issue was only " redeployment " and that leaves from Kinshasa's point of view the major issue unresolved. 

" The United Nations regularly accuses Rwanda and Uganda of supporting the M23, something both countries deny.
Mende affirmed that Rwanda had a key role in the outcome of rebels' future in the country, and said "the principal player could always restart this crisis. It is Rwanda's attitude that is the deciding factor."
By Sunday morning, Abandi, top DRC government bureaucrats and UN officials were still holed up in meetings at Commonwealth Resort, Munyonyo, to find ways of securing a major breakthrough. 

The rebel group waged war in 2012, protesting Kinshasha’s gross abuse of human rights, discrimination and entrenched corruption in the army, absence of basic social services in Kivu and government’s failure to facilitate the Return of Congolese refugees from neighbouring countries.

" This time, if reports from within the UN peacekeeping mission are accurate, the Intervention Brigade may be willing to push further north against the M23, using military pressure to push the M23 and its allies toward a peace deal. Of course, that’s a risky gamble, as a failed offensive could humiliate the UN and embolden the M23 at the negotiation table. "

I doubt that there is any thought of pushing M23 back to the negotiating table from the perspective of the Congolese Government, I think that they would prefer a military solution and I rather suspect MONUSCO and the Intervention Brigade are in a mood to play ball. 

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