Ruto calls for political will in ending DR Congo conflict
By AGGREY MUTAMBO
Kenya’s President William Ruto on Friday endorsed continued dialogue in the search for peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but said only political will bring a permanent solution.
At a meeting in Addis Ababa, the Kenyan leader said each of the neighbouring countries will lose if DRC’s conflict continues.
Dr Ruto spoke after a meeting of the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) as well as neighbours of the DRC to seek a solution to the ongoing conflict pitting Congolese forces and the M23 rebel group.
“Without these bold steps, our region will not be able to ride the negative effects,” he said.
Push for dialogue
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 regional 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 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 troops 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 countries, including Rwanda, which Kinshasa accuses of fuelling M23, attend.
Angolan President João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço, who has mediated Rwanda-DRC tensions for the AU, Burundian leader and chairperson 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.
Resume dialogue sessions
The DRC’s warring parties are expected to resume dialogue sessions in March. President Ruto said he endorses the preparations.
The Nairobi Process has been led by Ruto ‘s predecessor Uhuru Kenyatta and the pledge to support the talks may be a public backing for Kenyatta in spite of political difference back home.
DRC, however, says talks won’t happen with M23 until it surrenders the occupied territory to Kinshasa.