Former President Uhuru Kenyatta strikes peace deal with DRC government, rebels

Former President Uhuru Kenyatta and Prof Serge Tshibanga (right) holding a copy of the resolution at the end of the Third Round Inter-Congolese Peace Consultations "Nairobi III" led by East African Community (EAC) and flanked by special envoy Macharia Kamau (left) at the Safari Park Hotel, Nairobi. Dec 6, 2022. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

The East African Community-led Nairobi process of DRC peace has recommended the cessation of hostilities and release of child soldiers to remedy the security crisis in the Eastern part of the country.

Former President Uhuru Kenyatta, the facilitator of the DRC peace talks, held consultative meetings with the armed groups, civil society and victims of sexual violence during the close of the process.

Uhuru outlined some of the key issues that will put in place to quell the violence that has rocked DRC for decades. First will be the formation of a committee comprising representatives of the affected communities, EAC, and the DRC government to facilitate the release of prisoners with no criminal record.

“Some of them were not guilty of anything and were targeted because of their ethnic community and suspicion. The president (Felix Tshisekedi) has said they will form the committee and I told him I also want to be part of the committee. All those with no criminal record to be released at once,” said Uhuru.

Families evicted from national parks and protected areas are also expected to be involved in conservation and wildlife protection efforts while also establishing a system where the community can be involved and benefit from mining.

“The president has understood that protection of the environment and ecosystem cannot happen without involving the communities living beside the national parks,” said Uhuru.

Armed groups recommended that their leadership be incorporated into the P-DDRC (Program for Demobilisation, Disarmament, Community Recovery and Stabilisation for ex-combatants) and a review done on the same.

“The president has agreed to look into the leadership of the P-DDRC programme and ensure that it is accepted by all stakeholders and also conduct citizen participation on how best that programme can succeed,” said Uhuru.

However, the former president stated that for all the recommendations to be realised, all armed groups must put down their weapons and work to build a “Congo for the people of Congo.”

"All groups should accept to put down their weapons and join the P-DDRC so that they can be incorporated into projects of nation-building," he said.

Uhuru also recommended that foreign armed groups causing havoc in DRC should be part of the peace process, put down their weapons and go back to their countries.

He said that the peace process has submitted the issues to individual heads of state in the region in order to ensure that each country can talk to its people, “to return home and leave DRC in peace.”

Despite some armed groups participating in the peace talks, M-23- a rebel group that has posed a growing threat to civilians and recently cut off major supply routes for Kenyan and Ugandan goods to the city of Goma, in the Eastern DRC was not a party in the talks.

“They were not here but we have said we signed an agreement in Luanda and said there are specific issues we wanted those groups to actualise and if they do and we believe they will, they will join us. Once they do that, they will be included in the DRC peace process,” said Uhuru.

The former President acknowledged that to end the violence that has scarred the country and the people for more than two decades, it will not take one or two meetings but a process.

“When you go back home, continue discussing matters about peace among yourselves and solve problems in peaceful ways and not by use of guns,” he said.

Uhuru further pleaded with the delegates to go back home and educate young and older men to respect women and children who have bore the brunt of the conflict that has claimed the lives of thousands of people and displaced millions.

The peace process is expected to continue with two meetings slated for between January and February 2023 in Goma and Bunia to assess the progress on the agreements and begin engagement on medium- and long-term peace agenda.