Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Congo: M23 Can Only Be Eliminated Through Negotiated Settlement – Says US

M23 can only be eliminated through negotiated settlement - says US

The US special envoy to the Great Lakes Region has said that Kampala talks should be followed to the end. He told this to the French International Broadcaster RFI and below are excerpts of the interview.

Q: War has resumed in the East of the Democratic republic of Congo since Friday and the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC) are having the upper-hand. To resolve the problem of M23 rebels is the military force the best solution?

Russell Feingold: No. That’s not my reading of things (of the situation). The military solution doesn’t respond to problems caused by the M23 and the forty or forty-five other groups in the region. What it requires us, is a negotiated peace accord with the M23 like the ongoing process, in the framework of the Kampala negotiations. It’s important that these talks reach their objectives soon because that would put an end to the fighting, but it’s also important to achieve that without giving amnesty to those who have committed serious crimes. So, as far as I’m concerned, an excessive military effort risks jeopardizing the Kampala talks and the possibility of seeing the M23 surrendering. It also risks jeopardizing the initiatives for peace that are backed by the international community and the African Union. So, yes, we have seen that the Congolese military has had several victories lately, but we think that at this time, restraint will be the best option.

Q: A few days ago, you met with President Kabila in Kinshasa. Aren’t you afraid that he is getting carried away by his victories and trying to solve the problem with a major military offensive?

Russell Feingold: I met him before the recent fightings, and he didn’t deny that he would decide on the necessity of a military initiative, but he didn’t give me the impression of a man who was motivated by a military solution. In Kampala, he gave a go-ahead to the negotiators to reach an accord. I managed to see the Congolese negotiators working hard during the five days I was there, and I have the impression that the Congolese government wishes that the process bears fruit, because the military option is not the option he prefers. So we encourage the DRC to show restraint as much as possible.

Q: You also met with President Kagame in Kigali. If the M23 is suffering defeat after defeat, aren’t you afraid that the Rwandan Army can intervene directly on the (battle) field on the side of the M23?

Russell Feingold: It would be an unfortunate development. The Rwandan government and President Kagame say that the M23 is not their movement. We have told them about our worry. We have told them that we think the M23 gets supports. They say they are in favor of the end (destruction) of the M23, that’s exactly what President Kagame has told our group of special envoys, and he has told me that personally. Because it’s what the framework accord envisages, and Rwanda has signed that framework accord. In fact, when the five special envoys met with Paul Kagame some days ago, he made a strong statement in which he requested that the accord be finalized that same evening. That’s not what happened, but there is no doubt that the accord requires the end to M23, and not an implication (involvement) in another war that aims at supporting the M23. And of course, we don’t encourage the latter option which, in addition, would be in contradiction with the engagements of the Rwandan government.

Q: For a year now, you have been imposing sanctions to Rwanda over its support to the rebels of the M23. Have the sanctions had an effect on the ground? Has Rwanda distanced itself from the M23?

Russell Feingold: First of all, to the best of my knowledge, the sanctions target the M23, even if American legislators have recently decided on sanctions to punish those who encourage the recruitment of child soldiers by the M23. It’s a serious issue and as a result, we have decided to take back part of our military assistance because of evidences that we have. I don’t know what has been the impact of these sanctions. But I know that the United States have no other choice but to mean that this kind of practice has indeed happened. I know that the government wholeheartedly seeks to avoid the recruitment of child soldiers, we feel enough at ease to remind that these practices cannot be tolerated, even (when carried out) in an indirect way. With Rwanda, our objective is to have a positive and continuous relation. It’s a friend country to the United States; we acknowledge the progress the country has made following the tragedy it went through. Our concerns regarding the support vis-à-vis the M23 are harming an otherwise excellent relation. So we would like so much to work with Rwanda to allow the Kampala talks to bear fruit, in order to see the M23 demolished, and in order to have a relation in which we wouldn’t need to speak of sanctions or things of the kind.

Q: President Kagame affirms that the war will not end as long as the Rwandan Hutu rebels, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) continue to cause havoc in the region with the help of FARDC [the Congolese Armed Forces]. Also Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete suggests a big round-table with everybody, including the FDLR. But Rwanda doesn’t absolutely want that. They say they cannot discuss with forces of the evil. What do you think about that?

Russell Feingold: I understand why President Kagame is reluctant to engage in this kind of negotiations, and I don’t believe that talks between a sovereign nation and an illegal armed group − as if they were two equal partners – would be the best way to solve this kind of problem. The states-nations involved must be those that take part in negotiations, they must be at the same table; that is, Congo, Rwanda and other countries that are affected. And in the course of this process, then yes, the issue of the FDLR and the issues that carry on about the M23 must be talked about, but that doesn’t mean that these groups must have to sit at the table. They are illegal armed groups. Each of these nations has signed a framework accord which stipulates that these groups must not be tolerated, so I think there is a better approach other than the one which consists of organizing a series of negotiations between a sovereign nation and a rebel group which is considered hostile.

Q: At the discussions in Kampala, the Congolese government threatens to prosecute the rebel chiefs. But when one negotiates with people saying, “As soon as you have signed an accord, I will put you into prison”, isn’t that a way of jeopardizing these negotiations?

Russell Feingold: Congo has the right to try the authors of serious crimes, and those who have ordered them. One cannot expect that Congo renounces this right just because it has accepted to enter the negotiations, it’s not appropriate. There is a difference from an amnesty granted to people who have mounted a rebellion – the Congolese government is compliant  with that, it has studied the issue in a reasonable way. But Congo, the international community, and quite recently the United States cannot support an accord that anticipates an amnesty for the authors of serious crimes. This is a way of avoiding the errors of the past, and it’s what the Congolese say in Kinshasa and in the rest of the country. Granting amnesty in a repetitive way to the same people who committed serious crimes has no sense! We are required to take a bend and reach up to a reasonable peace accord, which guarantees security for the members of the M23 who (will) have been demobilized and disarmed, but which [the peace accord] doesn’t anticipate an amnesty for the authors of serious crimes.

Q: In Congo and Rwanda, one of the problems is the absence of true democracy and the respect of human rights. What do you think of the detention of Victoire Ingabire in a Kigali-based prison and the one [detention] of Diomi Ndongala in a prison in Kinshasa?

Russell Feingold: I believe that the democratic mechanisms that compel/require (people) to be held accountable reinforce these countries internally and also allow these countries to have the best relations with their neighbours, because the populations can express their desire of peace. One of the most important aspects of my role and the one of Mary Robinson and other special envoys is to encourage the process of reform in Congo. We encourage, with pressure, the organisation of local and provincial elections in the next two years, we wish that the agency that is in charge of these elections, be given transparent financial support, we are looking forward to seeing a more credible presidential election organized in DRC in 2016, contrary to what we saw in 2011, whereas the 2006 election was relatively well-organized. And in the same way, in Rwanda, other democratic practices, that give more room to the expression of the opposition and which require the government to be held accountable, must also be encouraged.

RFI: Have you raised the issue of Victoire Ingabire (while) with President Kagame and the one of Diomi Ndongala (while) with President Kabila?

Russell Feingold: Personally, no. Most of these topics are talked about in a bilateral way by our ambassadors. My role is to deal with issues that relate to the Great Lakes, so in these two countries it’s our two ambassadors who deal with this sort of things.

Congo: M23 Can Only Be Eliminated Through Negotiated Settlement – Says US


Post a Comment

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More

Design by Free WordPress Themes | Bloggerized by Lasantha - Premium Blogger Themes | Walgreens Printable Coupons