Congo peace talks stall, government rejects amnesty proposal

KINSHASA Mon Oct 21, 2013 9:49am EDT

Joseph Kabila, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, addresses the 68th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, September 25, 2013. REUTERS/Stan Honda/Pool

Joseph Kabila, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, addresses the 68th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, September 25, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Stan Honda/Pool

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KINSHASA (Reuters) - Talks to end a two-year-old insurgency in eastern Congo stalled on Monday after the government rejected calls for an amnesty for leaders of the M23 rebel movement, despite weekend statements suggesting a deal was close.

President Joseph Kabila's government said it was strongly opposed to a blanket pardon for the commanders of the Tutsi-led rebellion and to reintegrating their fighters into the national army.

M23 accused the government delegation of refusing to cooperate with its chief negotiator at the talks in neighboring Uganda and of seeking a return to hostilities.

The deployment of a 3,000-strong U.N. Intervention Brigade with a mandate for offensive military operations has raised government hopes it could beat the rebels militarily.

"There is total disagreement on the general and unconditional amnesty proposed by the Ugandan facilitator, which is absolutely opposed to our position," Congolese government spokesman Lambert Mende said.

"M23 are now insisting on unconditional amnesty and reintegration, having earlier said they weren't interested in integration at all. They keep changing their position," Mende said.

The rebellion's roots lie in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, where Hutu troops and gangs killed 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

M23 launched in early 2012 when soldiers mutinied, accusing Kinshasa of failing to implement a 2009 peace deal from an earlier Rwandan-backed rebellion. U.N. investigators have accused Rwanda of supporting M23, a charge Kigali denies.

The movement is the most powerful armed group in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where a host of militias battle each other and government forces over land, ethnicity and control of natural resources.

In November, M23 captured the biggest city in eastern Congo, Goma, before withdrawing to pave the way for negotiations in the Ugandan capital Kampala. Those talks have repeatedly stalled, leading to renewed violence in August.

On Saturday, M23 unexpectedly announced that a deal was close. Shortly afterwards, a government source told Reuters that he hoped for a negotiated resolution within days.

Axel Queval, interim head of the Goma office of the U.N. mission in Congo (MONUSCO), said that despite advances in recent days, there remained five outstanding points, including the question of the amnesty and reintegration of rebel troops.

Queval said MONUSCO could resort to military force if talks broke down. The deployment of the Intervention Brigade, created by the Security Council this year, helped government forces to push the rebels back from Goma in August.

An M23 spokesman said the government was disrupting the talks because it preferred a return to hostilities.

"Integration into the army is not an issue, we don't want to integrate anyway. We want to discuss a resolution to the insecurity in the east," Amani Kabasha said by telephone.

(Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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Comments (1)
PeaceinDRC wrote:
Queval said MONUSCO could resort to military force if talks broke down.

—This seems the way to go, history has shown that oppressive head of state as Kagame only seems to understand force. I said dislodge M23 in Rutshuru and the border with Rwanda and Uganda from where they get supply and for a professional and strong army and keep monitoring the borders with Rwanda and Uganda. The Kampala negotiations are a farce, if they were serious they should have been held in a neutral location Uganda and Rwanda can not be supplying and supporting M23 and holding negotiations at the same time. Congo Army and MONUSCO get ready to fight M23 and their Rwandan Army backers if needed then be ready to control borders with Rwanda and Uganda, the cycle of impunity should stop.

Oct 21, 2013 12:00pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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