The United Nations envoy tasked with helping to resolve the conflict that has engulfed the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has expressed satisfaction at progress made in talks between the country’s Government and a leading rebel group, but notes that some issues must be resolved to ensure success.
The UN News Service says Olusegun Obasanjo, the Secretary-General`s Special Envoy and former Nigerian president, and Benjamin Mkapa, former Tanzanian leader who is representing the African Union (AU) and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), are facilitating the discussions underway in Nairobi, Kenya.
Obasanjo says that there has been some progress made in reaching agreement on the format and rules for more substantive discussions between the government and the militia known as the National Congress in Defense of the People (CNDP). He adds he believes these talks will begin before the end of this month.
“But success has been blocked by two difficulties that need urgent resolution,” Obasanjo warns.
The CNDP, led by Tutsi insurgent commander Laurent Nkunda, is insisting on discussions on the obstacles facing the entire DRC, not just the conflict and humanitarian situation in the east.
Obasanjo says “without prejudice to the rights and wrongs of this demand,” that both he and Mkapa believe this goes “beyond the mandate given to us” last month by the Great Lakes Region, the AU and the UN.
Further, progress in the talks have been slowed down because the decision-making powers of the CNDP delegation has been curtailed by the militia`s leadership.
Obasanjo underscored that he and Mkapa will continue their diplomatic efforts “in search of a way forward in the interest of durable peace that the people of the DRC so fully and rightly deserve.”
Escalating conflict between Government forces (FARDC) and the CNDP has uprooted an estimated 250 000 people since late August, mainly in North Kivu province, which borders Rwanda and Uganda.
Other armed groups, including the Mai Mai, have also been involved in deadly clashes, some of which have been along ethnic lines.
The UN refugee agency says that thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in North Kivu cannot be reached by aid workers.
In Beni territory, at least 8000 people who fled the fighting between the FARDC and CNDP are in need of humanitarian assistance, while still others have been uprooted by clashes between Government troops and another militia known as the Front Populaire pour la Justice au Congo (FPJC).
The UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC, known by its French acronym MONUC, reports that the security situation remains fragile in North Kivu despite the retreat of the CNDP from some areas.
MONUC military spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Jean Paul Dietrich said that other militias, such as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a mainly Hutu rebel group, have taken advantage of the CNDP`s withdrawal and replaced them in some regions.
The FDLR is linked to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Nkunda has previously said he distrusts the motives of the FDLR and will not allow another genocide. Observers have noted that many of the Kivu insurgent movements have interest in resource extraction, notably Coltan, a mineral used in mobile phones.