President Museveni will host a summit of the Great Lakes region states to resolve the on-going political instability and humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The summit, which is scheduled for next month, follows the just-ended 19th ordinary Summit of Heads of State of the African Union, which recommended the formation of an army to support the weak DRC government.
Kinshasa has struggled to put down a mutiny and armed insurrection by the M23 rebel group which it – and the United Nations – says is supported by Kigali, claims that Rwanda denies.
The Kampala meeting will examine the sources of conflict in Africa’s Great Lakes region, focusing on the challenges of stabilising lightly governed regions such as northern and eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and northern Uganda. “In the Eastern part of the DRC, conditions have been deteriorating and that violence must end immediately,” UN deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson said.
Outgoing AU commission chairman Dr Jean Ping said the continental body was “ready to contribute to a regional force to put to an end crisis in the DR Congo and Mali.”
Meanwhile, Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame and President Joseph Kabila of DR Congo met on the sidelines of the AU summit in an effort to resolve the dispute in North Kivu.
A senior DRC diplomat described the talks between the two leaders as “cordial”. “We appreciate the role played by Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete and his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni through the International Conference on Great Lakes Region who worked hard to get our leaders to sit and talk,” said the diplomat who asked not to be named as he is not authorised to speak on the matter.
The diplomat added that the two leaders agreed to form joint patrols on their common border by the Rwanda Defence Forces and the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC). “We look forward at seeing M23 is cornered soon than later. More important we expect to see the RDF-FARDC joint patrol going beyond patrolling the borders but going to the next level of exchanging intelligence information on the rebels activities,” added the diplomat.
Besides fighting M23 rebels, the planned force will have the duty of patrolling and securing the Rwanda Uganda border zone. Meanwhile, the UNHCR’s assistant high commissioner for refugees, Janet Yuen Kheng Lim, yesterday visited three refugee camp sites and transit areas in Kisoro and Bunagana areas.
This visit comes five days after UN officials in Uganda announced they had secured $7 million from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund to facilitate humanitarian response to the influx of more than 80,000 refugees fleeing fighting in the Eastern DRC into Uganda.
Additional reporting by Lugenzi Kabale in Addis Ababa
By SHEILA NATURINDA & JOHN NJOROGE, Daily Monitor