New Vision ( Uganda ) reports
High hopes ahead of Congo peace deal signing
KAMPALA - The Democratic Republic of Congo and defeated M23 rebels are set to sign a peace deal today in what diplomats hope will be a key step in efforts to end decades of war in the Great Lakes region.
The rebels, one of many armed groups operating in the mineral-rich but impoverished east of the DR Congo, have been routed by the national army, who are backed by a 3,000-strong special United Nations intervention brigade.
Allegedly supported by neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda but seemingly abandoned by their sponsors due to international pressure, the M23 announced last week that their 18-month insurgency was over. They are expected to put this in writing in Uganda on Monday.
Alleged is a bit of an understatement. Museveni's granting of asylum would tend to make one wonder just how far Uganda and Rwanda have moved.
"Our hope is that we have a firm commitment from the M23 rebels to renounce their use of arms," said DR Congo government spokesman Lambert Mende.
The M23, a mainly ethnic-Tutsi force who mutinied from the Congolese army, have not confirmed Monday's meeting. But with no more military leverage they are seen as having little room for manoeuvre.
The agreement is expected to settle the fate of about 1,500 M23 fighters who have crossed into Uganda and are languishing in camps along the border. Uganda has refused to hand them over to the DR Congo.
"....M23 fighters who have crossed into Uganda and are languishing in camps..." Cry me a fucking river, there is a certain poetic justice given the thousands of innocent Congolese who through no fault of their own are languishing in refugee camps as a direct result of the M23 insurgency.
Around 100 more injured rebels have crossed to Rwanda.
Mende said the rebels would be dealt with "case by case" -- with many rank-and-file fighters expected to be given the option to return to the army.
I have seen no confirmation of this from the Congolese government and I think it would be a major mistake on their part should this happen.
More complicated is the fate of around 100 M23 commanders. These include M23 leader Sultani Makenga, accused of participating in several massacres, mutilations, abductions and sexual violence, sometimes against children.
It would seem to becoming apparent that Makenga and the leadership of M23 will not face justice at this point for their crimes. That said there are jails all over the world and justice delayed is not always justice denied, something quite a few African rulers have discovered the hard way.
"The rebels, by signing, will effectively be surrendering. From our side, even though we have won and triumphed, we will still respect what is on the table," said Francois Muamba, a DR Congo delegate to the talks.
I would hope that Kinshasa has decided what is on the table, if not as I suggested yesterday the Congolese government would be better off not turning up.
The UN's special envoy to the Great Lakes, Mary Robinson, told AFP the accord would be "a very important step for peace".
The important step was the defeat of M23 this is just a bullshit PR exercise I must say I am beginning to think that the major qualification to become an envoy to the Great Lakes Region is having a big mouth and an inability to engage ones brain before utilising that mouth.
Speaking to AFP on Sunday, she said the deal will also be followed by operations to neutralise other rebel groups in a concerted effort to end one of Africa's most brutal and longest-running wars.
This would be "new and welcome news for the people... who have tolerated or have had to endure for far too long these armed groups, with the raping and re-raping, with the displacement of people," she said.
"It has been intolerable, and now there really is hope," said the former Irish president.
I would give a guarded agreement to that assertion.
But even if a deal is signed, stabilising eastern DR Congo will not be easy. Previous peace deals for the region -- including with the M23 -- have foundered because they were not implemented or did not address underlying problems such as refugees and land ownership.
Not to mention the theft of Congolese mineral wealth.
Role of Uganda and Rwanda
Robinson said she believed Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni -- who deny backing the M23 -- were committed to an 11-nation regional peace agreement signed in February.
Yes... Museveni's handing over of the M23 rebels to face trial for their alleged criminal behaviour impressed me no end.
She said the priority would now shift to defeating the DR Congo-based Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a descendant of Hutu extremist groups that carried out the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
The Congolese government has already vowed a new campaign to eradicate the group.
Rwanda's minority Tutsi-led government views the FDLR as a major security threat, and dealing with the group is seen as crucial to addressing the neighbouring country's concerns and preventing the emergence of yet another Rwandan-backed proxy.
The FDLR should be eradicated because it is the right thing to do, it will have no bearing on Rwanda backing or not backing a new insurgency although it will remove the Rwandan justification for doing so.
But not everyone in the DR Congo is convinced.
I am certainly far from convinced and you can't get much further from the DR Congo than Auckland.
A group of Congolese NGOs and civil society groups last week dismissed the peace negotiations as "nonsense", denounced the impending "integration of criminals and foreigners" back into the army and called Uganda an "aggressor".
Uganda is walking a highwire supporting the M23 leadership. They would be far more sensible to hand them over to the ICC. Uganda could walk away from this smelling of roses by being half smart. That they are not doing so is already raising eyebrows.
A researcher for the Enough Project, a US group campaigning against war crimes, said Rwandan and Ugandan meddling could still scupper a deal.
"It must be noted that Museveni does not hide his feelings for the M23 when he demands a general amnesty and their unconditional reintegration," Fidel Bafilemba said.
That is crap. Kinshasa hold the cards in this situation not Rwanda and Uganda. The peace deal as I have said is a meaningless PR stunt if things don't fall to Kinshasa's liking they should just walk out, it will change nothing on the ground short term in the eastern DR Congo.
"The fact that Uganda says it won't extradite the rebels leads one to think there could be a plan B to rebuild the rebels."
Kinshasa blogger and journalist Alex Engwete has made this argument and backed it with a reasonable amount of circumstantial evidence, how could it be anything but circumstantial at this stage, I for one would not discount it or Engwete's insight on matters Congolese.
"At any rate, that a well-known Congolese warlord would be allowed to own a house in Kampala and to roam freely on Ugandan territory is in itself a major pointer of direct collaboration between Ugandan authorities with seedy and seditious Congolese elements for the sole purpose of destabilizing the DRC.
It is well worth a read.