by Shifa MWESIGYE, 08/09/2013
Photo: M23 rebel fighters. File photo.
Image by: JAMES AKENA / REUTERS
The rebel M23 group have agreed to resume talks with Kinshasa in Munyonyo, in three days, time, after a respite in fighting in eastern DR Congo.
Regional leaders, meeting in Munyonyo, Kampala, last week, had given the rebels a 14-day ultimatum to conclude the talks. The rebels, who had protested the resumption of fighting back home, are now understood to have indicated a willingness to talk, according news agency reports at the weekend.
M23 leader Bertrand Bisimwa was reportedly angry that the UN and Kinshasa ignored the talks and resumed the fighting, attacking his bases. The latest ultimatum followed an extra-ordinary meeting of the chiefs of defence forces and Foreign Affairs at the Commonwealth Resort Munyonyo, last week. The meeting also had representatives of the M23 and DR Congo.
After the meeting, President Museveni, who heads the regional peace effort, said:
“Dialogue between the two parties if carried forward, we can get M23 to come out peacefully so that UN forces deal with the other criminal forces that have been in Congo for years.”
The meeting resolved that as the dialogue resumes, the forces ensure maximum restraint on the ground to allow for talks to conclude. They also want M23 to end all military activities and stop war and threats to overthrow the Kinshasa government.
The delegates pledged to continue exerting pressure on the M23 and all other negative forces in eastern DRC to ensure that the war stops. They also requested the UN to find a definitive solution to the former M23 combatants interned in eastern Rwanda since March 2013.
U.S., UN Urge Congolese, Rwandan Restraint
Sudan News Agency (Khartoum), 08/09/13
Kigali — United States special envoy to the Great Lakes region of Africa, former senator Russ Feingold, and United Nations counterpart Mary Robinson are in Rwanda on the last leg of a four-day trip to promote peace in the region.
Sounding upbeat about peace prospects and warning all sides against further military action, their joint visit came as Great Lakes regional leaders agreed this week that peace talks between the Democratic Republic of Congo’s government and M23 rebels should resume in Kampala within days.…read more
Congo-Kinshasa: Congo to Return to Negotiations With Rebels
The New Vision 08/09/13
Kinshasa — Democratic Republic of Congo said it would return to negotiations with eastern rebels next week after regional leaders set a two-week deadline for peace talks to end an 18-month-old rebellion.
A summit of five African presidents from the Great Lakes region called on Thursday for Congo to restart the stalled talks with the M23 insurgents within three days, after military successes left the government in a stronger position.…read more
RWANDA FOCUS (Kigali)
by Kenneth AGUTAMBA 01. July 2013
Photo: Presidents Kenyatta and Kagame shake hands, while President Yoweri Museveni looks on. (Source: The Monitor)
Call it an alliance within an alliance, but that’s probably exactly what East Africa needs if the integration process is to yield fast and tangible results.
So when the trinity of Kagame, Kenyatta and Kaguta met in Kampala last week, it was good news when Rwandans, Kenyans and Ugandans heard that their leaders had discussed not politics but projects that would ease trade and increase business opportunities for them.
The ever inquisitive journalists in Kampala couldn’t stop throwing about the question of the whereabouts of Tanzania’s Kikwete and Burundi’s Nkurunziza but all this was beside the main point.
In the end, what mattered for ordinary nationals of the three states is that the threesome agreed to invest in an oil pipe line and a railway line that would run from Kenya through Uganda to Rwanda.
Uganda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa, who read the Memorandum of Understanding after the meeting by the three presidents, revealed that two oil pipelines would be developed; one pipeline that currently exists and brings oil products from Mombasa to El-doret should be extended to Kampala and then Rwanda.
The MoU further reveals that that pipeline will be configured to have a reverse mechanism so that when Uganda starts harvesting her own Oil, it can pump those products backwards.
Another pipeline, it was revealed, would be constructed for the evacuation of crude oil when it starts flowing and this again will be done between Uganda, South Sudan and Kenya, ending up at the port of Lamu.
Uganda’s Kutesa further revealed that it was also agreed to revamp the existing railway network and also construct a standard gauge railway line in Kenya and Uganda and also extend it to Rwanda.
Projects to reduce transport costs
Uganda’s President told journalists even if they were three leaders, they could still talk about EAC affairs adding that the absence the two other leaders was irrelevant.
“Even if you are two or three, you still talk about EAC issues.”
But even in reality, the alliance of the trinity makes sense. Uganda and Rwanda are two landlocked countries whose main port of entry for their imports is through Mombasa. An alliance with Kenya would therefore make great a lot of sense.
And to make sure these projects don’t end up being white elephant wishes, assignments were shared among the three countries.
Rwanda was charged with coordinating efforts of fast tracking the implementation of one East African Identity Card as well as the Single tourism Visa.
A single tourist Visa would mean a tourist entering East Africa would need just a single Visa to tour in Kenya, Uganda or Rwanda a move which would boost tourism earnings for the three states.
The Single identity card would also mean citizens of the three countries would walk freely across all the borders increasing opportunities to do business.
Meanwhile, Uganda was charged with spearheading the construction of the railway and the oil pipeline refinery while Kenya will oversee the construction of the oil pipeline.
It’s not clear where all the resources of implementing these projects will come from but observers say that if there’s political will then the resources will be easy to mobilize.
During recent summits by heads of state, bilateral negotiations have been encouraged to expedite the implementation of certain decisions. For instance, EAC partner states have been encouraged to go bilateral when it comes to the removal of NTBs on major routes. Rwanda is also working with Burundi and Tanzania on energy and road projects.
Rwanda biggest winner
Of the three states, Rwanda could be the biggest winner considering its distance from the border with Kenya. A fully working railway line would mean Rwandan traders easily move goods from Kenya to Kigali a development that would reduce on the cost of goods in Rwanda.
On the tourism front, Rwanda would also benefit from Kenya’s much larger tourism sector which receives more visitors annually.
An oil pipeline pumping refined oil products through Uganda to Rwanda would also have far reaching benefits considering the time oil tankers spend on the road on a single route from Kenya to Kigali.
There’s also the Geopolitics issue at hand. With these joint investments in place after costing a lot of money, the three states would work towards maintaining stable relations among them so as not to endanger the investments.
And for Rwanda, there’s one more relief; with a smoother route from Mombasa through Uganda, traffic would be shifted from the troublesome Dar-es-laam route where the recurring NTBs are an endless head ache to traders.
While skeptics have been quick to dismiss the meeting of Kagame, Kenyatta and Kaguta as harboring other secret motives, what will be important to the businessman is whether the projects actually take off.
There were no time deadlines given but there will surely be more meetings in the near future by the three leaders and these will be interesting to watch.
Uganda-Kenya oil pipeline to be extended to Rwanda
During a meeting held yesterday in Kampala, the Presidents of Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya, it was agreed that an oil pipeline connecting the three countries.
“It was agreed that we develop two oil pipelines, one pipeline that currently exists and brings products from Mombsa to Eldoret should be extended to Kampala and Rwanda. That pipeline will be configured such that it has to have a reverse mechanism so that when we have our own finished products, it can pump those products backwards,” read a memorandum of understanding signed by Presidents Yoweri Museveni, Uhuru Kenyatta and Paul Kagame.[read more…]
Source: Rwanda Focus
The village of rape survivor Angeline Mwarusena continues to be threatened by militia. Credit: Einberger/argum/EED/IPS
Washington — President Barack Obama’s top diplomat on African affairs on Tuesday defended the U.S. administration’s response to the continued crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), in the face of stepped up criticism from both civil society and U.S. lawmakers.
Since April, violence has spiked in the eastern part of the DRC, perpetrated in part by an armed group known as the M23 – a group that three U.N. reports this year have found to be receiving support from the Rwandan government, a key U.S. ally.
Over the past eight months, the renewed conflict has displaced some 2.4 million people, culminating in the recent fall of Goma, the largest city in the eastern part of the country, to the rebels.
Although the M23 leadership has now pulled out of Goma and entered into difficult peace talks, many analysts worry over the fact that these are being sponsored by Uganda, thought to be hardly a neutral player, and the lack of Rwanda’s representation in the negotiations.
Speaking before a subcommittee hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives, Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson said he rejected the notion that the U.S. administration has failed to speak out against the M23 rebels. Carson also noted that a “credible body of evidence” does indeed implicate Rwandan government support for the M23, “including military, logistical and political assistance”.
“Based on this evidence, we have repeatedly pressed Rwanda to halt and prevent any and all forms of support to Congolese armed groups,” Carson stated. Later, however, he admitted that, beyond closed-door talks, the only direct action Washington has taken has been to suspend a token amount of around 200,000 dollars in military aid to the Rwandan military earlier this year.
As the conflict drags on, that low-key approach has been increasingly criticised, as other Western countries, including the U.K., E.U. and several Scandinavian countries, have moved to impose sanctions on Rwanda. Indeed, back in 2006, then-Senator Barack Obama sponsored legislation that would have followed a similar route, an approach recently approved by a U.N. group of experts.
Eastern DRC is an area rich in natural resources, including diamonds, oil, timber and a host of minerals. Longstanding competition and animosities have led Congo, Rwanda and Uganda to battle over these resources for years, with some analysts suggesting that Rwanda’s support for the M23 is part of an open plan to annex part of the eastern DRC.
At Tuesday’s House hearing, Subcommittee Chair Christopher H. Smith stated that the U.S. government “must overcome our regret to what happened 18 years ago,” referring to the genocide in Rwanda that shook many here in Washington and beyond.
Smith also referred to a letter sent on Monday to President Obama by a coalition of 15 international civil society organisations. That letter warns that a decade and a half of “quiet diplomacy” by the United States in the Great Lakes region of Africa has failed to deter Rwandan support for armed rebels operating in the DRC.
That failure, they contend, has contributed to the current crisis.
“The U.S. response to the crisis has patently failed and is out of step with other Western nations,” the groups, including the Open Society Foundations, Refugees International, Africa Faith & Justice Network and others, said in the open letter.
“Since the M23 was created in the spring of 2012, U.S. officials continued to place faith in engaging Rwanda in a constructive dialogue. This approach has clearly failed to change Rwanda’s policy, as evidenced by the direct involvement of the Rwandan army in the recent takeover of Goma, as documented by the United Nations Group of Experts.”
The NGOs are calling on President Obama to name a special envoy to lead the U.S. response to the situation in the DRC, to support the naming of a similar U.N. envoy and a U.N. arms embargo on the DRC, and to suspend all non-humanitarian aid to the Rwandan government.
In testimony on Tuesday, Carson did express support for the appointment of a U.N. special envoy.
Yet he rejected the need for a presidential envoy from the U.S., stating that such an official already exists, albeit with a broader mandate for the entire Great Lakes region. Carson also stated that further punitive actions squeezing U.S. aid to Rwanda were unnecessary, noting that the U.S. government has no proof that any aid given to Rwanda has been “misused or rechanneled into the conflict in DRC”.
Over the past fiscal year, the United States gave some 195 million dollars in development assistance to Rwanda, primarily for use in health and agriculture programmes.
“The U.S. government seems content to simply work behind the scenes based on its own relationships in the region, but this isn’t yielding results in peace or bold ideas for resolving the longstanding issues in the region,” Aaron Hall, a policy analyst with the Enough Project, a Washington-based anti-genocide watchdog that spearheaded the recent open letter, told IPS.
“We think there needs to be stronger support for dealing with the interventionist policies of Rwanda and Uganda and stronger support for institution-building in Congo in order to get down to the root of the issues that have plagued these areas for decades.”
Of the current peace talks between the M23 and the Congolese government, Hall says they only constitute a “band-aid solution”.
“First off, it’s being chaired by Uganda, which has been implicated for supporting the M23. Second, the talks are only being held between the Congolese government and the M23 rebels, when clearly other groups have stated that they understand the involvement of Rwanda, which is not at the table,” Hall says.
What’s needed instead, Hall and many other analysts suggest, is to finally address long-term, systemic issues. This would include tackling not only Rwandan and Ugandan policies and actions, but also the inability of the Congolese government to create viable judicial and political institutions in the east.
“But the leaders currently appear interested only in the cosmetic issues,” Hall says. “What we need is a commitment from the international community to create a comprehensive framework to move towards the resolution of underlying issues that bubble up every few years but never actually get resolved.”