Sunday, March 01, 2009

Democratic Republic of Congo Government, Rebels to Sign Deal

DRC govt, rebels to sign deal


GOMA--The government of Congo is scheduled to sign a comprehensive ceasefire agreement with militia groups in eastern Congo this month, bringing to an end the war that has caused deaths and displacement since 1998.

United Nations special envoy and chief mediator in the Nairobi talks, Olusegun Obasanjo, last Tuesday met representatives of the Congo government and those of the National Congress in Defense of the People rebels, in which the two sides agreed to proceed to Goma for the signing of the ceasefire agreement under the Amani programme.

The shift to Goma could see all the 22 rebel groups in the eastern Congo, including the Mai Mai, join in the ceasefire agreement.

However, despite the positive development, Obasanjo will have to lay the groundwork for the next stage of the talks to be conducted under the Amani programme, which involves comprehensive political settlement of the grievances that made the many rebels in the eastern Congo take up arms in the first place.

In January, the two sides signed a document establishing the ground rules for substantive discussions and future political settlement.

It also sought commitment by rebels to withdraw their troops and to either disarm or join national army through the integration process.

But the overthrow of Laurent Nkunda from the leadership of the CNDP that followed, came as a surprise blessing.

It followed a joint Congo and Rwanda governments exercise to drive out the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, which Rwanda believes are remnants of those mastermind the 1994 genocide.

So far, over 2,500 of the militia, commonly known as Intarahamwe, have returned to Rwanda, either voluntarily or through forced repatriation, while 130 of them have been killed in the mop exercise.

However, the co-operation between Kigali and Kinshasa is still a headache for President Joseph Kabila, who has come under heavy criticism for entering into a pact with Rwanda without the approval of parliament.

Civil society and the opposition accuse Kabila of unilaterally inviting a foreign army onto Congolese territory, and wants the joint operation stopped.

But more worrying to Kabila, is how to handle the issue of Ntaganda, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes. — Xinhua.

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