Wednesday, 13 November 2013

What went wrong with the Congo peace deal

By RISDEL KASASIRA in Kampala | Wednesday, November 13  2013 at  08:07
An exasperated President Yoweri Museveni walked out on the DRC-M23 Kampala meeting. Kinshasa is now opposed to granting an amnesty to the defeated M23 rebels. PHOTO | FILE 
The last minute failure to sign the much awaited peace deal between the Congolese government and the M23 rebels on Monday reflects a difficulty in the ongoing efforts to bring peace in the eastern part of DR Congo.
The Congolese delegation led by the Foreign Affairs minister, Raymond Tshibanda, showed in up Kampala six hours late for the meeting and declined to sit in the same room with the M23 delegation. And when host President Yoweri Museveni walked out of the meeting, it was evident that one year of negotiations could go to waste.
The failure to sign the deal that is seen by many as a step towards a return to peace in DR Congo disappointed many.
The African Union, UN and EU voiced regret and urged the parties to resolve their differences and “remain committed to a peaceful settlement of the conflict."
What went wrong?
Sources say the turnaround by the Kinshasa delegation is as a result of the Congolese government seeing M23 as a “defeated force” and therefore, they see no need to sign an agreement with the “losers”.
But the M23 rebels who were convinced by President Museveni to withdraw from Goma in November 2012 so as to resume negotiations are seeing this as betrayal.
Kinshasa, which has for long accused Rwanda and Uganda of supporting M23, echoed the same accusations, saying Uganda was behaving as if it was part of the conflict, an accusation the Uganda government dismissed.
President Kabila and the international community are already pushing for the handover of the M23 military leader, Sultani Makenga, to Kinshasa for trial, which puts Museveni in a tricky situation.
If the agreement is not signed, Museveni will have to choose between handing over Gen Makenga to Kinshasa or keep him in Uganda, which the international community is totally against.
However Kampala has said it will not hand over the rebels. "As of now, we have received no (arrest) request and even if we had, we would not have proceeded until the agreement is signed," government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo told AFP.
Declaration Vs Agreement
Another position pushed by Kinshasa which apparently jeopardised the process is that the Congolese government want to sign “a declaration” to mark the end of the war, not a “comprehensive peace agreement” which the rebels prefer.
Signing an agreement would mean the rebels would be integrated into the Congolese army and also get amnesty, which Kinshasa is strongly against.
Leader of the M23 delegation, Rene Abandi, told Uganda's Daily Monitor on Tuesday that they were shocked to see Kinshasa turn around at the last minute when they had agreed on all points including the amnesty.
“We have agreed on everything in the documents including amnesty. What I don’t understand is why they changed their mind at the last minute,” he said.
The Congolese government said Monday night that it needed time to study the agreement.
"We have been engaged in this process for several months now... We have encountered some difficulties over issues important to us, and we think that these difficulties can be removed before finalising the process," Tshibanda told AFP news agency.
Influence of international community
While Kampala and Kigali who have been accused by the UN of supporting the M23 want the peace deal signed, effectively granting amnesty to the rebels, the United States and the UN support Kinshasa’s stand that the M23 commanders who allegedly committed atrocities should stand trial.
"In the past, agreements like these have been made with the DR Congo rebel groups and amnesty has been given to those who committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. That's unacceptable,” US envoy for the Great Lakes Region and DR Congo, Mr Russell Feingold, said.
“[There should be] no amnesty for those who have committed those crimes," he added.
Museveni criticises DR Congo
At the Pretoria summit on DR Congo organised by the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and SADC, President Museveni criticised the Kinshasa government for pushing a “Eurocentric” policy and disregarding regional and continental mechanisms to end the war.
This was after Kinshasa and the UN mission in Congo (Monusco) ignored calls by the ICGRL chaired by President Museveni and the AU to stop attacking M23 positions in order to give negotiations a chance.
This was seen as a lack of trust on the part of President Kabila toward regional and continental mechanisms that started the process to end the war in the eastern part of the country.
Clash of egos
According to military sources, the beginning of the disagreements between Rwanda and Uganda with the UN was who should have command and control of the intervention brigade, which has been bombing M23.
President Museveni, who was the brains behind this intervention force, wanted the command and control of the brigade that is composed of Tanzanians, South Africans and Malawians be under the AU, but the UN refused. In the end, the UN has been giving orders to the brigade to bomb M23 positions despite President Museveni calling for a ceasefire and pushing for negotiations.
It’s not clear when the Kampala talks will resume but Uganda's Defence Minister Crispus Kiyonga who has been chairing them said he was making efforts to meet delegates from both sides to agree on a new date for the signing ceremony.
However, pacifying DR Congo will not be an easy task as several militia groups remain active including Rwanda’s arch foe, the Hutu-dominated FDRL.