The International Conference of Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) summit that has just ended in the Ugandan capital Kampala failed to agree on the make-up of a proposed neutral force to tackle the insurgency in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The ICGLR, an organization which represents 11 countries of the Africa Great Lakes Region, was represented by seven heads of state that included the two warring neighbours, Rwanda and the DRC. Both President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Joseph Kabila (photo) of the DRC attended the summit which was meeting amid allegations from the DRC that President Kagame and the Ugandan leader Yoweri Museveni were conspiring to help an insurgency on the borders of the three countries calling itself the M23 Movement.
Fighting between M23 rebels and Congolese government forces has displaced nearly half a million people since April. Regional leaders last month brokered a deal for a “neutral force” to be set up to take on the Congo-based rebel groups. But the heads of state of east and central African nations meeting to discuss the eastern Congo crisis were divided over whether the troops for a mission to Congo would be drawn from regional countries alone, or would be an international force.
Rwanda and Uganda, under pressure from the West to cut all links to the M23 insurgency, want a regional force to tackle the rebels. But Congo has in the past resisted such calls, favouring an expanded role for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo. All 11 members of the ICGLR signed a final communiqué in Kampala, pledging to seek “home-grown solutions” to the fighting. But a diplomat who declined to be identified said the agreement lacked any real solutions about which countries would provide the troops and who would fund them. “They’ve just kicked the can down the road,” he said.
Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni said the heads of state would meet again in four weeks to discuss the findings of defence ministers who were asked to look into the size and make-up of such a force and its logistical requirements.
Henry Okello Oryem, the Ugandan Foreign Minister told reporters Congo President Joseph Kabila had agreed for troops from regional ICGLR states to tackle the M23 rebels. But Congolese Defence Minister Alexandre Luba Ntambo did not confirm this. He said the “composition and the size of the international neutral force” was to be discussed when the committee of defence ministers meets.