What will the latest talks in Kampala to discuss the growing tensions in the Eastern DRC yield? That is a question that is drawing varying answers from the parties involved, political analysts and people in the region.
Heads of State from the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) which includes Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, DRC, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Zambia are expected to attend the talks on September 5. They come after heavy fighting between the rebel group M23 and the Congolese army (FARDC) backed by Monusco alongside South African and Tanzanian forces.
The fighting, which raged on for more than two weeks, threatened to suck in Rwanda after mortars were launched from the DRC into Rubavu which killed one woman and seriously injured several others. That was the 34th bomb that had been fired on Rwandan soil since last year, according to a government press release, which condemned this unprovoked attack by the FARDC. In reaction, the Rwanda Defense Forces sent reinforcements to the border to protect ‘the sovereignty and people’ of Rwanda.
While Rwanda continued to show restraint, this development was enough to jolt regional players into action, and led Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, as the ICGLR chairman, to convene the ‘emergency meeting’ in Kampala.
Uganda’s High Commissioner to Rwanda, Amb. Richard Kabonero, is optimistic the Kampala talks will yield a solution. “I think everyone is concerned with the latest crisis. The Kampala peace process was going on well and we still affirm to the commitments the Heads of State made about the Kampala peace process and the framework signed in Addis. But the Chair of ICGLR has called for a crisis meeting which I am hopeful will explore solutions to the problems,” Kabonero said.
The M23 have regularly urged the DRC government to return back to the negotiating table in vain, and accused Kinshasa of dragging its feet.
Omar Khalfan, lecturer of International Relations at the National University of Rwanda (NUR), told The Rwanda Focus that the meeting is important in as far as bringing peace, security and stability in the eastern DRC and the region is concerned.
“In international relations we say that if a dialogue fails between two sides which are fighting each other, the war breaks out but we also say that in such a situation dialogues should not stop because it’s from such mechanisms that a long-lasting solution can be reached,” Khalfan said.
He added that although the Congolese government seems confident it will win the war because of the UN support, it is not good for the DRC government to use the war strategy saying that it’s not possible to win a war against someone who is fighting for the freedom and human rights of his people.
Khalfan added that even if the DRC government would defeat the M23 rebels but not consider the root cause or the ideology behind the conflict, it could erupt again. “There is a need for the government to negotiate with the M23 to achieve a final solution to the conflict in the eastern DRC.”
He further noted the current intervention brigade of the UN in the DRC complicates matters, since their support of the FARDC against M23 compromises their supposed neutrality.
However, Dr Venuste Karambizi, a political analyst in international relations, is rather doubtful of the Kampala meeting, considering that previous meetings in the Ugandan capital concerning the Eastern DRC conflict have not produced any positive result either.
“For the conflict in eastern DRC to come to an end it’s imperative for President Yoweri Museveni, as the Chairman of ICGLR, and other people involved in this issue to come up with new modalities and mechanisms of resolving the differences between the M23 and the DRC government,” Karambizi said.
He noted that there is a need for the African Union and other members of the ICGLR to take part in addressing the conflict.
Karambizi too thinks the UN intervention brigade is a threat to the security in the region, especially Rwanda, since this has given more power to the FARDC who now abuse that position to fire rockets into Rwandan territory instead of negotiating with the M23.
Sulah Nuwamanya Wakabiringi, a political observer and commentator who keenly follows political affairs in the region, says that there will be little impact because DRC President Joseph Kabila has showed little interest in the talks for a long time.
“You would want to believe that the talks will have some impact but at the same time, looking at what has been going on, it is not the first time that such talks have taken place yet people have continued to die,” Wakabiringi observed. “Hopefully the leaders will come to their senses and realize that things have to change. There should be commitment from both sides. Kabila has to realize that fighting won’t be a solution, however much backing he gets.”