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DRC: Why Involving M23 In Regional Processes Is Critical For Sustainable Peace

by Edmund Kagire
7:40 pm

The 21st Extraordinary summit of EAC Heads of States convened in Bujumbura on Wednesday to discuss the DRC crisis and other regional issues.

Rwanda has called for the involvement of M23 in the processes aimed at restoring peace in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), if regional initiatives to pacify the country are to hold.

Prime Minister, Dr. Edouard Ngirente, addressing the 21st Extraordinary Summit of East African Community (EAC), which convened in Bujumbura, Burundi, on Wednesday, said that the decisions made by EAC countries should not sideline M23 fighters, who are actors and stakeholders in the process.

Dr. Ngirente raised reservations on the issue of pre-cantonment which had been highlighted in the final communique of the summit, pointing out that it would only be fair to involve the rebels to visit the locations designated as cantonment camps before they are sent there.

The Prime Minister, who represented President Paul Kagame at the summit chaired by the President of Burundi, Evariste Ndayishimiye, who is also the current chair of the EAC, said that it is only logical to directly involve M23 in the process because they are the main adversaries of the DRC government in the conflict.

Dr. Ngirente insisted on clarity of resolutions which were presented by the EAC Secretary General, Dr. Peter Mathuki, emphasizing that the rebels should be involved in other processes, such as the Nairobi and Luanda process, since the decisions made concern them directly.

PM Dr. Ngirente emphasized the need to involved M23 in the implementation process.

The meeting in Bujumbura directed the East African Community Regional Force to safeguard and maintain the areas vacated by M23 and other armed groups to sustain the orderly withdrawal of M23 and other groups.

The summit gave a mandate to the EACRF “to work with chiefs of defence forces, MONUSCO and other stakeholders to visit and verify within three weeks the suitability of Rumangabo camp for pre- cantonment of M23 and other armed groups,” the communique reads.

However, it doesn’t mention that the M23 will be involved in verifying the suitability of the cantonment camps, something Dr. Ngirente said should be considered.

While President William Samoi Ruto of Kenya downplayed the issue, describing it as “semantics” or wasting time on a small statement in the resolutions, PM Ngirente maintained that it is only rational that when you are taking someone to live in a certain place, it is important for them to first see the place.

“Involving M23 in this process actually makes things easier. It is better than saying we have agreed on this and them M23 is not involved while we are saying that they actors in this and then they don’t know where they are being taken,”

PM Ngirente said that letting M23 visit the place does not cause a problem to anyone and it is the best way to deal with the issue.

President Ndayishimiye said that already M23 knows the area and that the EAC should have confidence in the facilitator to effectively communicate to the M23.

“They already have a ground where they can ask about the implementation of this matter,” President Ndayishimiye said.

President Ndayishimiye was confident that communicating to M23 through the facilitator is sufficient.

However, PM Ngirente was not done, arguing that among the people visiting the pre-cantonment sites include heads of DRC government forces and MONUSCO but the M23 who are concerned will not be represented.

He pointed out that it is the M23 which is fighting the DRC government and not involving them in a process concerning them is likely to be a recipe for disaster and it would only make sense if they are involved.

The Vice President of Tanzania, Dr. Phillip Mpango argued that the phrase stating that “Chiefs of Armed Forces, MONUSCO and other stakeholders” will visit the locations covers M23, which is among the stakeholders.

Uganda’s First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of East African Community Affairs, Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga intervened and said that the issue should not be a problem because the M23 rebels are already in the Rumangabo area.

PM Ngirente however intervened that information given to the summit earlier indicated that the M23 are not in Rumangabo, because it is currently occupied by Kenyan and South Sudan forces.

The Premier argued that if the word ‘stakeholders’ is enough as suggested by the Tanzania VP, it should mention ‘other stakeholders, including M23’.

The Rwandan Prime Minister argued that recognising that M23 is a stakeholder and actor in the process and yet it is involved in some steps and not others is counterproductive and it would be a proper way of doing things.

Observers say that excluding M23 and disregarding their grievances, reminiscent of 2013 Nairobi agreement, which the rebels accuse the DRC government of disregarding, could only reproduce the same results.

The summit directed that communications with M23 should be handled by the facilitator, but PM Ngirente argued that the summit cannot assume that the facilitator will fully represent the interests of the M23 as a concerned party, yet other stakeholders are represented.

The summit also urged DRC and South Sudan to engage in bilateral discussions to resolve the issue of negative forces on the border between the two partner states.

Heads of State and representatives pose for a photo with newly sworn-in East African Court of Justice Judges.

Among other urgent actions, the summit directed the EAC secretariat to constitute a technical evaluation team by June 15, 2023, composed of officers at the rank of Brigadier General from each partner state to evaluate the implementation of the mandate of the EACRF and report to the sectoral council on cooperation on defence affairs within 90 days.

The summit reiterated its call to all parties to de-escalate tensions and to use established regional, continental and international mechanisms to resolve any disputes in the implementation of peace in eastern DRC.

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