Congo rebels expect 'major breakthroughs' in peace talks

Report
from Agence France-Presse
Published on 19 Oct 2013

10/19/2013 14:20 GMT

KINSHASA, October 19, 2013 (AFP) - Rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) said Saturday they are heading toward "major breakthroughs" with the Kinshasa government in peace talks in Uganda.

Under Uganda's mediation, "major breakthroughs are about to be obtained in Kampala since the heavy involvement of the international community in the dialogue" between the two sides, the M23 movement said in a statement.

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."

In contrast, the rebels referred to the "remarkable presence" of US special envoy to the Great Lakes Russ Feingold and the UN special envoy Mary Robinson as well as Martin Kobler, the head of the UN mission to the DRC, and representatives of the European Union and African Union.

During talks on Friday, "the M23 made major concessions on its political demands in order to make possible the signing of the peace agreement in Kampala in the coming hours," the group said.

"By this act, our movement wishes to demonstrate its determination to contribute to the rapid establishment of a lasting peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo," it said.

The M23 controls an area of around 700 square kilometres (270 square miles) in the east of the DRC, bordering Rwanda and Uganda.

The group was founded by former Tutsi rebels who were incorporated into the Congolese army under a 2009 peace deal.

Complaining the deal was never fully implemented, they mutinied in April 2012, turning their guns on their former comrades and launching the latest rebellion to ravage DR Congo's mineral-rich and conflict-prone east.

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."

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.

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