Kenya is trying to broker direct peace talks between the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo and rebels who have seized parts of eastern Congo and review the implementation of the 2013 Nairobi Declaration, Kenyan government sources privy to the matter told The Standard.
The shuttle diplomacy by Nairobi comes days after the M23 rebel group declared a unilateral ceasefire on April 1 saying it was seeking dialogue with the government.
The group has also withdrawn its forces from the combat zone in order to avoid new confrontations with the Congolese army.
Sought for a comment on possible peace talks between M23 and the government facilitated by Kenya, Mr Willy Ngoma- the rebel group spokesperson, told The Standard that he was in the combat zone and that we should direct that question to the politicians.
‘’I am the spokesperson of the M23 rebel group, not a politician. We are on the battleground. Ask the politicians,’’ Mr Ngoma said, adding that information regarding any dialogue will come from his seniors.
Asked about a potential dialogue between the protagonists, the Presidential Spokesperson in DRC, Kasongo Mwema said ‘’it would be up to you to meander to answer since you’re there. I am not on the trip and for more information, contact the Deputy Director of Communications who is on-site’’.
Heavy fighting broke out on March 28 after the M23 rebel group attacked two Congolese military positions near Uganda and Rwanda.
Since the beginning of this conflict, thousands of civilians have fled the DRC, a large part seeking refuge in Uganda.
DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi arrived in Kenya on Thursday evening for a two-day official visit during which he is expected to meet his host, Uhuru Kenyatta today at State House, Nairobi and formally sign the East African Community treaty as well as other bilateral agreements, especially on Agriculture.
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Mr Tshisekedi’s visit comes days after Nairobi hosted the regional assembly on Great Lakes Region which focused on parliament’s role in conflict resolution, as they sought to improve peace and prosperity in the region.
The forum held on April 2-6 brought together national parliaments of twelve Great Lakes Region member-states, namely; Angola, Burundi, the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia.
On Saturday, President Kenyatta will chair a quadripartite summit between Kenya, the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda, which sources say will mainly focus on reviewing the 2013 Nairobi Declaration because the proponents of the crisis in eastern Congo will most likely be under one roof save for Kenya which is playing the mediator role.
The Standard can authoritatively confirm the attendance of Uganda’s President, Yoweri Museveni at the summit.
Ugandan forces have long been present in the eastern DRC, jointly fighting the rebel groups based in the region.
The Standard has also learnt that President Paul Kagame will attend the summit.
A statement issued by Kenya’s foreign ministry said that Heads of State from the EAC partner states will be in Nairobi for the signing of the EAC treaty by the DRC President.
Kigali has for long been accused by Kinshasa of supporting the M23, reports the Kagame administration has denied.
In December 2013, under the watch of Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta, Joyce Banda of Malawi and Yoweri Museveni- the rebel group and the Congolese government signed the Nairobi declaration to end the bitter conflict at State House, Nairobi.
This declaration was signed during Kenya’s 50th Independence Day.
One of the decisions of this declaration was to have the M23 end rebellion and transform itself into a legitimate political party.
Others were; the dissolution of it as an armed group as well as demobilization and a renunciation of violence as a means of pursuing future claims.
The then DR Congo President, Joseph Kabila was hailed by regional leaders for agreeing to sign the deal.
Ken Vitisia, one of the key diplomatic figures involved in the M23 and DR Congo peace agreement says the review of the implementation of the agreement is crucial to the stability of eastern Congo.
The former Great Lakes envoy argues that the East African Community peace and security organ should now hammer and put pressure on the partner states interfering with the region.
’You cannot have a member state supporting rebels in another partner state. That is criminal.’’ Ambassador Vitisia said, claiming ‘’that the biggest threat to eastern Congo is Uganda and Rwanda, who have created militia groups and engage in proxy wars because of minerals in that part of the country’’.
‘’The joining of DRC to the EAC is a good opportunity to end the proxy wars. The community should initiate a peacekeeping intervention force that will clean up the region,’’ notes Vitisia
In the spirit of finding peace, Vitisia who was in his home village of Vihiga campaigning for a political seat told The Standard, that the M23 rebels should lay their arms down and negotiate to be part of the government.