The M23 rebels, who are not represented at the ongoing inter-Congolese dialogue in Nairobi and are currently under sanctions by DRC, have been asked to hand themselves over to the government failure to which military action will be taken against them.
The Democratic Republic of Congo government has reiterated that it will not offer amnesty to the group which continues to defy calls for cessation of hostilities and exit from the areas of Bunagana, Rutshuru and Kiwanja where they were last week asked to leave after the last meeting of the Luanda process in Angola.
“If they are your brothers and sisters, I advise you to tell them to come while the arm is still stretched towards them. Do not want to be in conflict with the government and the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF),” President Felix Tshesekedi’s special envoy Serge Tshibangu Wednesday told the armed groups attending the third Nairobi Peace Process on.
He reiterated that Kinshasa will not engage the foreign armed groups fighting in eastern Congo and that they must leave the country forthwith.
“We have met only six percent of the M23 group who are represented here. The rest have decided to isolate themselves and they continue to carry out attacks,” Prof Tshibangu added.
Groups in Nairobi meeting
The EAC facilitator for the process, former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, said the Nairobi meeting only involves armed groups that have agreed to silence their guns.
“The Luanda process was very clear that M23 should ease hostilities — which they have done — and vacate from three locations. Until that is done, M23 cannot be part of these discussions,” Mr Kenyatta said.
“The other foreign armed groups were told to leave the DRC territory and go back to their home countries. If they will not, they shall face military action by FARDC and the EACRF,” he added.
Day two of the Nairobi Inter-Congolese dialogues was off to a slow start following the late arrival of yet another group of 82 representatives of armed groups, community leaders, civil society groups and youth groups from Goma.
Largest inter-Congolese dialogue
The arrival of the group on Tuesday afternoon added to the groups that arrived over the weekend from North Kivu, Ituri and other regions, bringing the total number of participants to 350, who include over 50 armed groups, making it the largest inter-Congolese dialogue since the inception of the Nairobi peace process in April this year.
The late arrival of the team pushed Tuesday’s negotiations to Wednesday.
Participants who spoke to The EastAfrican expressed hope that the meeting would find a lasting solution to the recurrent conflict in eastern Congo, which some claimed is mainly fuelled by foreign fighters.
Others intimated that the conflict has entirely destabilised their lives as a result of a growing number of victims who are now disabled as a result of the war, besides cases of rape and defilement — resulting in the siring of “unwanted” children — and a delayed school calendar among other woes.
“We thank Kenya for the part it is playing in helping us find lasting peace because we need an end to all of the trouble happening back at home. I have just received a call from my children telling me that there was a fight in the morning. We hope the M23 can go back to where they came from,” one of the victims said.
Counselling for war victims
Psychiatrists from the Kenya’s Ministry of Health have been seconded to the week-long event at Nairobi’s Safari Park Hotel to offer counselling to the victims as they come face to face with some of the persons suspected to be behind the crimes committed against them.
One rebel group’s representative confessed that the support for some of the armed groups indeed comes from some neighbouring countries, which he declined to mention, but quickly pointed out that they were ready to surrender their guns to the DRC government if the issues affecting the region are addressed.
Regarding the decision by EAC member states to deploy troops to the region, he said they are waiting to see if indeed their intention is to ensure peace.
“If that is indeed their intention, we shall be happy to support them. All we have been fighting for is the protection of our fellow countrymen and resources. We have seen some groups that are supported by foreign countries steal our minerals and fight our people, we want an end to that and a country that is peaceful,” he said.
Hope in Nairobi process
Prof Tshubangu expressed hope that the Nairobi process would bear fruit and come up with strategies that bring peace in eastern DRC.
“We think we are going to leave this country with resolutions and commitments. Remember all the eyes of the entire world are on us. I’d like to urge all of us that it is important that what we discuss here is executed for the sake of our country and future generations,” he said on Tuesday.
“This is your historical moment. Use it to bring lasting peace to your home country,” Kenya’s Foreign Affairs PS Macharia Kamau told the participants.
The dialogues are meant to create mechanisms for bringing back peace in eastern DRC where more than 120 armed groups are fighting.
They kicked off on Monday with a resolution by EAC heads of state to deploy military action against armed groups that defy calls to ease hostilities, create channels for voluntary repatriation of internally displaced persons and refugees hosted in neighbouring countries in addition to a call for the unconditional departure of foreign armed groups from DRC territories.