No breakthrough at meeting over DRC
Less than a third of the regional leaders invited turned up to the meeting, which was hosted by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in Kampala.
That meant that the central question of a neutral regional force to try to restore peace in eastern DR Congo remained unresolved. The idea has been floated by leaders of the 11-member International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) but it has made little headway.
In a statement following Saturday’s meeting, the ICGLR said only the force would be “deployed under the mandate of the African Union and the United Nations.”
Rwandan leader not at meeting
The ICGLR also called on regional defence ministers to reconvene quickly to work toward the “operationalisation of the Neutral International Force within three months.”
Attending the meeting, the third in two months, were DR Congo President Joseph Kabila, and his counterparts from Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete, and South Sudan, Salva Kiir.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame did not attend: amid ongoing tension with DR Congo, which accuses Rwanda of backing the rebels in its east, Rwanda was represented by its defence and foreign ministers.
Eastern DR Congo has been hit hard by a new rebellion by army defectors who formed a group called the M23.
Their members are former fighters in an ethnic Tutsi rebel movement that had been integrated into the military under a 2009 peace deal.
A UN report in June also accused Rwanda of backing M23, one of a host of armed groups in the troubled region, causing a surge in tensions between the two neighbours.
‘Situation remains fragile’
Kigali denies the charge, but on Friday Kinshasa’s Foreign Minister Raymond Tshibanda said there was still a “war situation” between the two and called for UN sanctions against top Rwandan generals.
“While there has been a lull in military activities by the M23 in North Kivu since July, the situation remains very fragile,” the United Nations’ senior official for central Africa, Abou Moussa, said in a message ahead of the summit.
“I call for the group’s immediate and complete cessation of all destabilising activities.”
Even if the firm decisions made are eventually made on M23 and relations between Kinshasa and Kigali, a plethora of other armed groups also operate in a region that has been in turmoil for the best part of the past two decades.
Much of the rebel activity consists of abuses against civilians and plundering of natural resources, be it metals, ivory or timber.
Fighting in the region has forced more than 220 000 people to flee their homes since April, and more than 57 000 others have fled to Rwanda and Uganda.
A new summit has been scheduled for next month.