AU Summit: Ruto pushes for money, other resources to DRC
By AGGREY MUTAMBO
Kenyan President William Ruto is rallying the international community to pump money and other resources to the peace bid in the Democratic Republic of Congo, reflecting for the first time the tough job of resolving the conflict.
At a mini-Summit with other Afeican leaders on the conflict in Eastern DRC, Dr Ruto said the problem will not be solved overnight but argued more resources will be needed to sustain momentum.
Dr Ruto joined leaders at the the African Union Peace and Security Council, the AU body that decides policy on peace and stability on the continent, to discuss one of Africa’s enduring conflicts.
“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.
Dr Ruto’s subtle fund-raising appeal may imply the conflict is complex. Kenya is among the countries who have sent troops to the DRC as part of the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF), whise deployment has since been approved by the African Union and the UN Security Council. But the funding bit has always been hazy. The EastAfrican understands some Western countries have funded some of the peace initiatives fronted by the EAC but have given no guarantees on longterm 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 search for peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but said only political will 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 to neighbours.
Nairobi and Luanda have been pushing for dialogue between rebel groups and the government. But most of the directives on disarmament and withdrawal from the occupied territories have been unmet. Last week, the refional defence chiefs gave up to 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 ceasefire.
Continued to fight
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 if 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. Amd President Ruro said he endorses preparations.