Monday, November 26, 2012

DR Congo's M23 rebel leader heads to Uganda for withdrawal talks

M23's reported connections with Uganda and Rwanda complicate a resolution in eastern Congo.

By Arthur Bright,?Staff writer / November 26, 2012

A woman carries her child in Minova, some 28 miles west of Goma November 26, 2012. Congo said on Sunday it would not negotiate with M23 rebels in the east until they pulled out of the city of Goma, but a rebel spokesman said Kinshasa was in no position to set conditions on peace talks.

Goran Tomasevic/REUTERS


The leader of the Congolese rebel group M23, which sacked the city of Goma a week ago, is set to meet officials in neighboring Uganda for negotiations over the group's withdrawal. But various reports indicate that M23 is operating under the auspices of the Rwandan government, suggesting that a resolution to the immediate crisis may require international pressure as well.

Skip to next paragraph Arthur Bright

Europe Editor

Arthur Bright is the Europe Editor at The Christian Science Monitor.? He has worked for the Monitor in various capacities since 2004, including as the Online News Editor and a regular contributor to the Monitor's Terrorism & Security blog.? He is also a licensed Massachusetts attorney.

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An M23 spokesman told Reuters that Col. Sultani Makenga, leader of M23, will meet with Ugandan defense chief Aronda Nyakayirima in the capital of Kampala on Monday to discuss M23's withdrawal from Goma. The Ugandan military could not immediately confirm M23's claim to Reuters, but stated that such negotiations were ongoing.?

"I am not aware of his arrival but I wouldn't be surprised if he were here because meetings have been going on and since Aronda has been tasked to coordinate the withdrawal (from Goma) he would need to talk to him (Makenga)," military spokesman Felix Kulayigye said.

Reports indicate that M23 and Congolese officials met on Sunday as well. The Associated Press writes that Ugandan Defense Minister Crispus Kiyonga said he was overseeing negotiations between the two sides, and Rene Abandi, M23's head of external relations, told AP that M23 representatives attended a two-hour meeting with Congolese President Joseph Kabila and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Sunday, a day after a regional summit in Uganda that called upon M23 to withdraw from Goma. The DR Congo government denies involvement in any negotiations.

The resolution of the situation in eastern Congo is complicated due to the M23's connections with both Uganda and Rwanda. A United Nations report released last week asserts that both countries are providing support to the rebels, with the Rwandan military in active command of the group. AP writes that both Rwanda and Uganda have repeatedly denied supporting the M23 movement and have faced little international criticism over the allegations, but the report is apt to increase pressure on both countries.

The highly anticipated report from the U.N. Group of Experts said both Rwanda and Uganda have "cooperated to support the creation and expansion of the political branch of M23 and have consistently advocated on behalf of the rebels. M23 and its allies include six sanctioned individuals, some of whom reside in or regularly travel to Rwanda and Uganda."


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