Tuesday, December 11, 2012

SADC Pledges Troops for Eastern DRC

Sadc pledges troops for eastern Congo

Tuesday, 11 December 2012 00:00

DAR ES SALAAM — Southern Africa has pledged 4,000 troops to hold the ring in the volatile eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, but there is uncertainty about who will pay and when and where the force will be deployed.

South Africa promised as yet undefined logistical support and Tanzania said it would contribute a battalion of 1,000 soldiers, the largest contingent in the proposed brigade of 4,000 to be sent by the Southern African Development Community (Sadc), news agencies reported on Sunday.

President Jacob Zuma went to Dar es Salaam for Sadc’s extraordinary summit, called because of the worst instability for 10 years in the mineral-rich eastern region of the Congo.

Fewer than 1,500 M23 rebels seized the key city of Goma for 12 days at the end of last month, withdrawing with a warning that they would be back unless President Joseph Kabila agreed to direct talks about their demands.

An M23 delegation arrived in Kampala at the weekend hoping to meet Mr Kabila, who attended the Sadc summit.

The rebels routed the Congolese army during their offensive and brushed past United Nations (UN) peacekeepers in the 19,000-strong Monusco force whose performance in the field was derided by regional leaders.

“It is a very big shame. It is some sort of military tourism,” Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said after briefing the summit on the security situation.

Uganda is not a Sadc member but it borders eastern Congo and Mr Museveni chairs another of the regional bodies involved, the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region.

As well as a growing humanitarian crisis, the violence in eastern Congo is laying bare the deep distrusts between some of the countries involved.

The governments of Uganda and Rwanda were accused last month by a UN Security Council panel of directly supporting the M23 rebels, a charge both countries denied.

John Prendergast, a leading analyst on the Great Lakes for many years, said the international community needed to get involved at a high level to prevent a hasty deal being cobbled together by regional leaders.

“The UN Security Council must act quickly to appoint a senior, respected African mediator to work with the African Union and help lead a broadened peace process quickly,” Mr Prendergast of the US-based Enough Project said.

“Regional governments can’t be both negotiating and mediating at the same time, as that excludes the vast majority of eastern Congolese voices and issues from consideration,” he said.

Sadc pledged to send troops to a Neutral International Force in the eastern Congo, an idea first mooted after the start of the M23 rebellion eight months ago.

Its role would include neutralising the threat from Rwandan Hutu rebels, who have been based in the Congo since the 1994 genocide in their homeland. Suggestions at the summit that the first Sadc troops could be deployed this month were seen as wildly optimistic.

Sapa/AFP/ Reuters

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