AU evaluates funding options for peace initiative in DR Congo
By AGGREY MUTAMBO
The African Union has agreed to evaluate funding possibilities for the regional peace initiative in the Democratic Republic of Congo, signalling further support for one of the continent’s most complex conflicts.
But the continental body gave no timelines and still asked for support from the UN and other global bodies.
The decision came from Friday’s AU Peace and Security Council meeting, a first on DRC in six months.
Leaders under the 15-member Council which is currently chaired by South Africa said there is a possibility to fund the mission from the AU’s Peace Fund.
“(The meeting) authorises the Council in collaboration with the Commission and the Governance Structures of the AU Peace Fund, to immediately work out modalities for the utilisation of the Fund and report back to the PSC within six weeks,” a communique issued on Saturday said.
“(It) calls upon the United Nations and other partners to support peace-making efforts in the DRC through the provision of financial and technical expertise.”
The AU body, which decides policy and response to peace and security crises, said it Welcomes the deployment of the EAC Regional Force to the eastern DRC “and decides to support its deployment and operations.”
The EAC had authorised the full deployment of troops under EACRF but there has been no movement so far.
At a mini-Summit of the AU on eastern DRC, Kenyan President William Ruto called on the international community to pump money and other resources into the peace bid in the DRC, reflecting for the first time, the tough job of resolving the conflict.
Dr Ruto said the problem will not be solved overnight but argued more resources will be needed to sustain momentum.
“Resources (are required) to support comprehensive interventions to assist the growing humanitarian needs,” he said.
According to Ruto, the conflict has a long way to go and everyone including DRC’s neighbours, the African Union, the UN and other international organisations must work together to prevent a humanitarian disaster.
Kenya is among the countries that have sent troops to the DRC as part of the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF), whose deployment has since been approved by the African Union and the UN Security Council. But the funding bit has always been hazy.
Nation.Africa understands some Western countries have funded some of the peace initiatives fronted by the EAC but have given no guarantees on long-term engagements.
Other countries like Uganda, Burundi and South Sudan are expected to deploy. Uganda and Burundi have bilateral military arrangements with DRC, specifically to pursue armed groups from their territories. In the DRC, however, the most lethal group against the government has been the M23.
The EACRF forces, according to an earlier plan are to last six months after which the situation will be evaluated. So far, each country has funded its initial deployment and the mission has largely avoided combat, something the Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi has criticised.
The DRC conflict has also seen a united front of East African Community leaders calling for ceasefire and dialogue, something that has not been obeyed.
President William Ruto on Friday endorsed continued dialogue in the search for peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo but said only political will could bring a permanent solution.
“Without these bold steps, our region will not be able to ride the negative effects,” he said, warning of the impact on neighbours.
Nairobi and Luanda have been pushing for dialogue between rebel groups and the government. But most directives on disarmament and withdrawal from the occupied territories have been unmet. Last week, the regional defence chiefs gave up until the first week of March for M23 to pull out of occupied territories. The rebel group, however, said it retains “the right to self-defence” if attacked.
The dialogue series need money. Last week, the EAC’s peace facilitator, former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta called for partners to “legitimise” his efforts by supporting the dialogue initiatives and adhering to the ceasefire.
Still, the call was defied as M23 and Congolese forces, FARDC, continued to fight.
The meeting in Addis came as further violence saw several civilians killed last week in spite of a recent Summit of the East African Heads of State directing for ceasefire.
This was the first meeting on DRC by the AU Peace and Security Council since August last year when the continental organ endorsed a troop deployment by the EAC.
In the meeting on Friday, Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi suggested he had tabled the agenda on M23’s disobedience of regional leaders on ceasefire.
“The evaluation of the operations in the East of the DRC, the refusal of the M23 to withdraw from the Congolese territories which it occupies illegally, in spite of the resolutions of Luanda and Bujumbura, are some points which will be evoked during this Summit, which is held at the headquarters of the African Union,” his office said after the meeting.
Traditionally a group of 15 member states, the AU Peace and Security Council is currently chaired by South Africa. But the DRC meeting saw all leaders from neighbouring including Rwanda which Kinshasa accuses of fueling M23, attend.
Angolan President João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço who has mediated Rwanda-DRC tensions for the AU, Burundian leader and Chair of EAC Summit Évariste Ndayishimiye, Samia Suluhu of Tanzania, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Ugandan Vice President Jessica Alupo and Deng Dau, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for South Sudan were present.
Also present was African Union Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security Bankole Adeoye.
The DRC’s warring parties are expected to resume dialogue sessions in March.