March 19, 2013

M23 Talks Halted, as Rebels Refuse To Sign Peace Deal

Bertrand Bisimwa replaces the sacked Bishop
Bertrand Bisimwa

Government has halted the ongoing peace talks between the M23 rebels and the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo following fierce clashes amongst the rebels. Fighting broke out between the M23 rebels factions led by Brigadier General Sultan Makenga and Bishop Jean Marie Runiga two weeks ago. It came after Runiga was sacked from the rebel group leadership and replaced with Betrand Bisimwa. On Saturday, Runiga fled to Rwanda following fierce fighting with the group loyal to Brigadier General Sultan Makenga at Kibumba.

The group that is being held by the Rwandan government has applied for refugee status. Now, Crispus Kiyonga, the facilitator of the dialogue has announced the suspension of the talks for a week to allow for the reorganization of the rebels. He says they will respect the new leadership of the rebels to continue with the talks in a week’s time.

Kiyonga says that during the signing of the Peace, security and cooperation framework for the DRC and the region on 24 February in Addis Ababa, DRC President Joseph Kabila estimated the signing of the peace accord to take place within two weeks. Kiyonga explains that it would have been possible, but the DRC government took sometime to harmonize its position.
Notwithstanding the developments within the M23 ranks, Kiyonga says both the DRC government and the M23 remain committed to the dialogue. He says that members of both delegations have left Kampala to return to their principles for further consultations. He also states that all parties do not know the whereabouts of the ICC indicted renegage army rebel leaders Bosco Ntaganda. Kiyonga however says that, once arrested Ntaganda will be handed over to the ICC in accordance with international law.

Speaking to Press  on Monday morning, Bertrand Bisiimwa, the civilian leader of the M23 rebels said they were considering not signing the peace deal brokered by Uganda because the Kinshasha government has allegedly abandoned the talks. Bisiimwa claimed that the Congolese government had abandoned the talks two months ago without sending any official communication to its delegation.

He also accused Kinshasha of focusing on granting the rebels amnesty and integrating them into the national army, yet they are interested in addressing key issues such as security and social services delivery among others before signing the peace deal. But Kiyonga is hopeful that the warring factions will reconcile and reunite since what has split them is not fundamental. He says Uganda wants to be part of the solution to bring down negative forces such as the ADF that uses DRC soil to undermine the country.

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