Monday, December 31, 2012

Mai Mai Militia Wants to Join DRC Peace Talks

Mai Mai militia wants to join Congo peace talks

Tue Jan 1, 2013 12:56AM GMT

The Mai Mai militia of eastern Congo says they should also be included in the peace talks between the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) government and the March 23 (M23) rebel movement.

"The Mai Mai have several well-founded demands… We want to be and should be part of the talks," Joseph Assanda, who represents 11 Mai Mai groups based in South Kivu province, said on Monday, AFP reported.

The DRC government and the M23 movement have been holding peace talks in the Ugandan capital Kampala since early December. However, the talks were suspended on December 21, after the parties failed to agree on an agenda.

But the two sides agreed to resume negotiations in January after the New Year holidays.

The Kampala talks have been focusing on a 2009 accord that applied to dozens of armed groups operating in the eastern DRC and was meant to end a violent rebellion in the mineral-rich region that sucked in neighboring Uganda and Rwanda.

"We are Congolese, and the agreement was signed in (DR) Congo. We want talks that will include us to take part in Congo," Assanda added.

The Mai Mai militia groups are indigenous to the region and insist that they are Congo’s true patriots. Since the 1990s, the Mai Mai fighters have forged and broken alliances with a variety of domestic and foreign government and guerilla groups in a country that has experienced interminable cycles of violence for nearly 15 years.

Since early May, over 900,000 people have fled their homes in the eastern Congo. Most of them have resettled in Congo, but tens of thousands have crossed into neighboring Rwanda and Uganda.

Congo has faced numerous problems over the past few decades, such as grinding poverty, crumbling infrastructure, and a war in the east of the country that has dragged since 1998 and left over 5.5 million people dead.

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