Threats by UN Peacekeeping mission in DRC, MONUSCO, that M23 rebels should disarm before 4pm on Thursday have angered leaders in the Great Lakes region and also set the stage for fresh confrontations in the war-torn country.
Shortly after the ICGLR leader, President Yoweri Museveni boarded a Nairobi-bound plane on Tuesday evening ahead of a meeting with regional leaders aimed at finding a homegrown and political solution to the DRC conflict; MONUSCO rolled out an ultimatum to the rebels to vacate North Kivu.
A statement issued by the mission on Tuesday night said: “Any individuals in the area of North Kivu province that includes Goma and Sake who are not members of national security forces will be given 48 hours from 4pm (Goma time) today to hand in their weapons to a MONUSCO base and join the DDR/RR (disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, Reintegration and Resettlement) process.”
It added: “After 4pm on Thursday, 1 August, they will be considered an imminent threat of physical violence to civilians and MONUSCO will take all necessary measures to disarm them, including by the use of force in accordance with its mandate and rules of engagement.”
Sources at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the statement came as a shock to leaders who were preparing for Wednesday’s Summit.It was then agreed that UN’s aggressive attitude, which could eventually perpetuate the conflict in the war-torn country, be condemned during today’s meeting.
“President Museveni was very annoyed by MONUSCO’s behavior yet all militia groups including ADF have been training and rearming in their backyard,” a source told Chimpreports on condition of anonymity as he is not authorized to speak to press.
“If UN is interested in fighting, then why are they seeking our intervention? Let them go and confront the rebels instead of wasting our time and resources in meetings,” the source added.
In fact, in his speech today, Kenyan leader Uhuru Kenyatta said while his country welcomes the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC and the entire region, “We hope that it will avail an additional avenue in the search for lasting peace in the region.”
Uhuru further warned: “Kenya, however, advises that this additional framework and its initiatives complement and strengthen, rather than complicate and overlap ICGLR initiatives.”
“I find it important to make this point because we urgently need all hands on deck, for effective deployment to avoid wastage of much needed initiatives and resources through duplication. Being a member of ICGLR, Kenya submits that the organization should be central to the Pact and the Framework,” emphasized Uhuru, in relation to an earlier UN-fronted agreement signed in Addis Ababa a couple of months ago.
In addition, said Uhuru, Kenya desires to join as a signatory to the Framework in order to lend “diplomatic and political” support to its initiatives.
“Kenya supports the focus on seeking political solutions to security problems in the region and deeply appreciates the efforts made by the Heads of State and Governments of the ICGLR. I also reiterate Kenya’s support for past recommendations in fashioning responses posed by armed adverse forces in the region.”
Over one million civilians live in the relatively small area of Goma and Sake, and along the road that connects them where, amongst others the Mugunga camps, temporary home to nearly 70,000 people displaced by the conflict, are situated.
An attack by MONUSCO is likely to worsen the humanitarian crisis facing DRC and neighbouring regions.
According to previous agreements between regional leaders, the DRC government was mandated to hold peace talks with the rebels.
In fact during a press conference in Kampala last year after M23 had captured the provincial town of Goma, DRC President Joseph Kabila accepted to hold talks with the militants.
However, the negotiations could not quickly bear fruit after the DRC delegation chose to return to Kinshasha, leaving the M23 delegation in cold at a Kampala Hotel.
The leader of M23 delegation in Kampala, Rene Abandi recently told this website that “Kabila has abandoned the peace talks to pursue the path of war, a reason the talks are on the verge of total collapse.”
“For example, according to our rules of procedure, we are supposed to have at least the leader of DRC team or his deputy here for talks but none of them is around. Malu Malu was here for a few days before returning to Kinshasha. This shows lack of commitment to the peace process,” said Abandi.
DRC officials have since been quoted in the media as saying M23 either disbands or face gunfire.
A fortnight ago, DRC used attack helicopters and tanks to blast down M23’s walls of resistance especially in Kibati and Kanyarucinya.
Warplanes also attempted to strike M23’s military base in Rumangabo but missed their target thus killing about five civilians.
Observers say the unfolding events are pointing to the possibility of fresh violence that will cost thousands of lives.
Uganda and Rwanda continue to bear the brunt of massive refugee influx due to the unending conflict in Congo.
M23 military commander, Brig Sultan Makenga on Tuesday night directed his forces to be on standby class one and ready to strike as MONUSCO and its allies -Tanzania and South African continue to advance and stockpile weapons in Goma.
“The so Called UN Peacekeepers have declared war against the Congolese who need to talk peace with their government. The fighting will start Thursday at 4PM,” warned the M23 rebel Movement.