UN Envoys urge Resumption of talks between DR Congo, M23 rebels

UN envoys on Monday called for more progress in regional peace efforts in the wake of an apparent stall in the so-called Kampala talks between the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the M23 rebel group.

PANA Correspondent in New York reports that the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General to the Great Lakes Region, Mary Robinson and Mr. Martin Kobler, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in the DRC made the call, while briefing the UN Security Council via teleconference.

Ms. Robinson said the parties reached consensus on eight out of he 12 articles of the draft agreement under discussion.

However, they found it difficult to agree on certain contentious and difficult issues that had remained problematic throughout the talks, namely the amnesty, disarmament and integration of M23, she noted.

The talks are being held in Kampala under the auspices of the chairperson of the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, the Mediator, as well as Ugandan Defence Minister and Facilitator, Crispus Kiyonga.

During the negotiations, which started on 17 October, Ms. Robinson led a team of envoys, referred to as the E-Team comprising Mr. Kobler, who also briefed the Council, as well as United States Special envoy, Russ Feingold, African Union Special Representative, Boubacar Diarra and the European Union Senior Coordinator Koen Vervaeke.

Mrs. Robinson noted that the parties agreed to reconvene “soon” to overcome their differences.

“It will be critical that the parties and the facilitation remain committed to a swift conclusion of the Kampala process,” she said, adding that the E-Team would continue to support the efforts.

During several days of negotiations both sides were able to agree on the following issues: the release of prisoners, the end of M23 as a rebel movement and the possibility to establish itself as a political party.

Others are the return and resettlement of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) and the return of extorted and looted properties during the M23’s brief occupation of Goma in November 2012.

She said that sides also agreed on the establishment of a national reconciliation Commission, governance and socio-economic reforms, implementation of the provisions of the 23 March, 2009 peace agreement which were partially or not implemented, and, were still relevant, as well as the implementation, monitoring and evaluation mechanisms of the Kampala Agreement.

Also speaking via a teleconference, Mr. Kobler said it was incredible that the “unique opportunity” could not be seized and called on the parties to reengage with the peace efforts.

“I urge particularly the M23 to use the dynamics of the last few days to more constructively and without delay sort out in the next few days the remaining issues and bring back peace to the eastern DRC,” he said.

The UN envoy said he sought to support efforts towards “only a fair agreement, not necessarily a perfect agreement” and echoed Ms. Robinson in commending the government of the DRC and the Facilitator for their “constructive attitudes”.

They also stressed the urgency of steps in the implementation of the 11-nation Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC and the region signed earlier this year under UN auspices as a comprehensive approach to sustainable peace in the region.

Mr. Kobler told the Council that there had been a “considerable military build-up” by rebel and DRC government forces around the key eastern city of Goma.

He also cited reports of the M23 forcing young refugee men to join the rebels.

Ms. Robinson also cited said “alarming” reports of military reinforcements around Goma, which only further highlighted the “critical” need for an agreement in the Kampala talks.

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