DRC force ready in three months
Harare – An International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) meeting in Uganda last week has called on regional defence ministers to work towards the deployment of a peacekeeping force to the DRC within the next three months.
Nearly a third of the regional leaders invited attended the summit of the 11-member ICGLR hosted by Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni in Kampala on September 8.
DRC President Joseph Kabila, Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete, and South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir were in attendance.
However, Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame – who is accused of fuelling unrest in the DRC – did not attend the meeting and was represented by his Defence and Foreign Affairs Ministers.
In a statement released after the meeting, the ICGLR said the international force would be “deployed under the mandate of the African Union and the United Nations”.
It added that regional defence ministers should meet immediately to work towards the “operationalisation of the neutral international force within three months”.
The ICGLR reiterated need to implement an agreement between President’s Kabila and Kagame of July 2012 on creation of a neutral international military force to combat rebels in the provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu in eastern DRC on the border with Rwanda
The July accord calls for the leaders to work with the AU and UN “for an immediate establishment of a neutral international force to eradicate M23, FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) and all other negative forces in eastern DRC and patrol and secure the border zones”.
At the SADC Heads of State and Government Ordinary Summit in Mozambique in August, leaders from the bloc denounced Rwanda for supporting rebels in the DRC.
This followed revelations by a UN Group of Experts that Rwanda was deeply involved in the rebel activities.
The SADC Summit mandated the bloc’s chairperson, Mozambique’s President Armando Guebuza, to undertake a mission to Rwanda to engage Kigali to end the violence.
In the subsequent meeting between Presidents Guebuza and Kagame, the Rwanda leader expressed disappointment that SADC believed he was involved in the rebellion.
The SADC Summit also urged member states and the international community to provide humanitarian relief to the displaced people in the Eastern part of DRC.
Since early May, more than 220 000 civilians have reportedly fled their homes in eastern DRC, with tens of thousands crossing into Rwanda and Uganda.
The March 23 movement or M23 rebels defected from the Congolese army in April in protest over alleged mistreatment in the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC).
They had previously been integrated into the Congolese army under a peace deal signed in 2009.
General Bosco Ntaganda, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on a charge of recruiting child soldiers, is leading the mutiny.
A recent report by the Human Rights Watch also accused the rebels of widespread human rights abuses that include rape, torture and murder.