Congolese foreign minister Raymond Tshibanda this week rejected a call by the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) to establish a regional African military force to quell violence and insecurity in eastern Congo. The latest conflict has displaced 280,000 people since April. Tshibanda's dismissal of a regional peace plan that is African-generated is puzzling, until one considers Tshibanda's reasoning and his alternative.
"We Don't Want Them to Survive As an Ideology"
Besides resisting an African solution to an African problem, Congo is rejecting negotiations with the M23 rebel group who say they want to enforce the tenets of the March 2009 Goma Peace Accord. M23 has consistently defeated the Congolese army and has set up a regional operations center at Rutshuru. By many accounts, other rebels groups as well as dissatisfied FARDC soldiers who are underpaid, underfed, and undersupplied are joining the ranks of the M23.
A statement by foreign minister Tshibanda speaks volumes.
We don't want them (M23) to survive as a movement, as an ideology, we don't want to see their actions continue... there is no question about it, and there is nothing to discuss, to negotiate.
The name "M23" comes from the date the peace accord was signed and, rebels say, soon violated by Kinshasa. You can read the accord here. The agreement is straightforward in its assurance that local police forces provide security, that the laws of the Democratic Republic of Congo be enforced, and that the former CNDP achieve recognition as a legitimate political party.
That, in a nutshell, is the "ideology" that the government of DRC wants to squash.
But Congo is not talking about the murderous FDLR, remnants of those responsible for the Rwandan genocide. The FDLR has filled the vacum of territory abandoned by the Congolese army in their retreat from the M23.
Sandbags to Protect Conservation Rangers by www.gorillacd.org
Wildlife Also at Risk from FDLR
Officials at Virunga Park filed this report on their blog.
Yesterday we received news that the Eastern Sector of the Park has come under FDLR control. This is very worrying, because our relationship with the FDLR is not good. The FDLR are a violent militia group from Rwanda largely made up of combatants considered to be responsible for the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. Most of the our 12 rangers who were killed last year were killed during attacks on our positions by the FDLR.Apparently, the FDLR ideology is acceptable to Kinshasa.
The military advances by the M23 in the past few days has caused the Congolese military to withdraw, but the M23 have not advanced as much as the military have fled, and the empty ground in between is being filled by militia groups.
Congo's Collusion with the UN
According to a statement reported by Reuters, foreign minister Tshibanda said Kinshasa would accept soldiers from certain central and east African states as part of an international mission, but not from Rwanda and neighboring states. The Congo government also prefers that UN forces engage the rebels, since UN forces are already in place.
Rwanda and Uganda have both denied accusations by UN officials that their governments provided support for the M23 rebellion. Rwanda met with UN investigators in recent weeks to rebut the GoE interim report that was prematurely leaked to the press by the UN. The UN force in Congo, MONUSCO, has been under fire for its failure to create stability despite a yearly budget of 1.2 billion USD and a force of 20,000.
A source close to the negotiations told OEN, "We consider this (ICGLR statement) a good outcome because it is a regionally owned and driven solution that is meant to produce results quickly. MONUSCO will not be happy about this, but they have had more than enough time to resolve this and they didn't. While all this was going on, Congolese at the summit were actively sabotaging today's agreement, distributing an unsigned 'petition' from 'the Congolese people' listing all the accusations in the GoE report and demanding action against Rwanda."