DR Congo conflict: Nairobi to host talks between militia groups, government

The Second Regional Heads of State Conclave on the Democratic Republic of Congo convened in Nairobi, Kenya today. The Conclave was hosted by His Excellency Uhuru Kenyatta and was attended by His Excellency Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo. [PSCU]

Nairobi will today (Friday) host and facilitate direct peace talks between the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo and rebels who have seized parts of eastern Congo, State House Kenya said yesterday.

The consultative dialogue which will be held in Nairobi will bring together the various local armed groups and seeks to broker a long-lasting deal between the protagonists of the bitter conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The peace talks come barely a month after Nairobi held an EAC Heads of State summit that officially admitted Kinshasa to the East African Community.

During the early April closed-door meeting between  Presidents Kenyatta, Felix Tshisekedi (DRC), Yoweri Museveni (Uganda) and Paul Kagame (Rwanda)-  the option of having a dialogue with the armed groups was extensively discussed by the Heads of State.

The proponents of the crisis in eastern Congo, Rwanda, Uganda and DRC were all under one roof that day, save for Kenya which played the mediator role.

Kigali has for a long time been accused by Kinshasa of supporting the M23, reports the Kagame administration has denied.

Ugandan forces have been present in the eastern DRC, jointly fighting the rebel groups based in the region.

President Kenyatta who is the chairperson of the EAC has been maneuvering for several weeks now to ensure that these talks happen.

According to a communique released after the meeting, yesterday’s exchanges between the Heads of State drawn from Kenya, Uganda, DRC, Burundi and Rwanda (represented by Foreign minister) agreed on deploying a new regional force to tackle rebel insurgency in the country.

‘’The establishment of the regional force should commence immediately under the leadership of DRC,’’ read part of the communique.

The Presidents also resolved that all armed groups in the DRC should participate unconditionally in the political process to resolve the issues and warned that they would be considered as negative forces and handled militarily by the region if they failed to.

The communique further added, ‘’that all foreign armed groups must disarm and return unconditionally and immediately to their respective countries of origin and they would be considered negative forces and dealt with militarily if they failed to honour’’.

A M23 new recruit demonstrates martial arts during a training session at the Rumangabo military camp in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, May 16, 2013. [Reuters]

There are more than 100 armed groups in eastern DRC that contribute to prolonged insecurity in the mineral-rich region.

The violence perpetrated has displaced millions of civilians. The proliferation of these armed groups is the result of 25 years of protracted conflict over land and resources, over political power- all compounded by foreign interference.

The Nairobi meeting also agreed to institute a secretariat that will oversee the implementation of the resolutions made and a Heads of State engagement will be constituted within a month to evaluate the progress.

Foreign Affairs PS, Macharia Kamau was designated as President Kenyatta’s Special Envoy in an acting capacity.

Sought for comment on Friday’s peace talks between the militia groups and the government facilitated by Kenya, Mr Willy Ngoma- M23 rebel group spokesperson, told The Standard that “they were in a meeting and he would communicate later’’.

Nairobi Declaration

In December 2013, under the watch of Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta, Joyce Banda of Malawi who was the SADC chairperson by the time of signing and Yoweri Museveni- the M23 rebel group and the Kabila-led 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.

The implementation of the declaration resolutions however stalled due to political differences as well as change in the Kinshasa regime.