The facilitator of the East African Community (EAC)-led peace efforts for DR Congo, former Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta, on Wednesday, July 12, chaired a meeting that discussed the security crisis in the vast country’s east.
The former Kenyan president arrived in Goma, the capital of eastern DR Congo’s North Kivu province, on Wednesday morning. The meeting tackled key issues geared towards enhancing both the Luanda and Nairobi peace processes, Kenyatta’s office said.
In attendance at the meeting that discussed the ongoing regional peace efforts, including the cantonment of armed groups, were Congolese Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Jean Pierre Bemba, Congolese Minister for Regional Integration Mbusa Nyamwisi, the head of the UN mission in DR Congo, Bintou Keita, as well as diplomats and representatives of different organisations.
The meeting came a few days after Kenyatta met with different other stakeholders to discuss the issue of cantonment of armed groups. He emphasized that all the parties to the conflict in eastern DR Congo should be consulted about the matter.
The commander of the M23 rebel group, Gen. Sultani Makenga has indicated that he is not interested in cantonment if the Congolese government does not want direct peace talks. The armed conflict between the DR Congo army (FARDC) and M23 began in November 2021, after the rebels accused the government of ignoring multiple agreements.
The M23 had remained silent since its defeat in 2013 until its resurgence. The group resumed fighting and took control of key positions in North Kivu province.
Thanks to the Luanda agreement of November 2022, the rebels began withdrawing from their positions. The M23 maintains its calls for direct talks but Kinshasa has downplayed their requests and called the group a terrorist movement.
In November 2022, the East African Community deployed a regional force to eastern DR Congo to support peace efforts. The regional force has since secured the areas vacated by the M23.
“M23 did its part and was only waiting for the dialogue where we are going to discuss the deeper causes of the conflict,” Makenga told a Congolese news reporter.
“We will do what they want. If they want peace, we will make peace together; if they want war, we are going to make war.”
Eastern DR Congo has remained volatile for nearly three decades and is home to more than 130 local and foreign armed groups responsible for atrocities and human rights violations.
One of the groups is the FDLR, a UN-sanctioned terrorist militia which was founded by remnants of the Interahamwe and the former Rwandan army that committed the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
While the Congolese government accuses Rwanda of supporting the M23 rebels – allegations Kigali dismisses – the Congolese army is accused of collaborating with the FDLR in the war against the M23.
The UN says the FDLR has remained active in spreading a genocide ideology against Congolese Tutsi communities.