Dispatches from the Field: The Security Council in Kigali and Kampala
KIGALI and KAMPALA: On Monday (7 October), Council members closed their tour of the Great Lakes Region with a one-day two-country visit to Rwanda and Uganda for meetings with President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda respectively. Council members then continued on to Addis Ababa for the annual consultative meeting with the members of AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) which is scheduled to take place today (8 October).
The Kigali Visit
The Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR) was one of the major issues raised when Council members met President Kagame and Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo. It seems Kagame expressed frustration that the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) intervention brigade was only focused on the March 23 Movement (M23) and suggested the peacekeeping force should be similarly engaging FDLR activities in the DRC. In comments to the press following the meeting, the US, who led the Rwanda leg of the trip, said the DRC had expressed its intention to deal with the FDLR. During this visiting mission, Council members have repeatedly underscored that MONUSCO’s mandate is to neutralise all armed groups.
In the meeting with Kagame, Council members said that the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework Agreement (PSC Framework), progress in the Kampala talks and MONUSCO’s more robust mandate provided an important strategic opportunity to consolidate peace in the DRC and in the region. It seems that Council members also expressed the need for more demonstrable action by Rwanda to implement its commitments under the PSC Framework. In particular there were requests for Rwanda to use its leverage and influence to reign in the M23. It seems Kagame did not directly address the issue of Rwandan support for the M23 but expressed his view that it was the responsibility of the DRC to practice good governance, strengthen state authority, reform its judicial sector and deal with the armed groups operating in its territory.
While Council members agree with the view that the DRC needs to assert state authority in the entirety of its territory, they also recognise that there are significant challenges in achieving this and that it cannot be isolated from regional dynamics. In press comments following the meeting, Ambassador Samantha Power (US), who is the lead on the Kigali leg, said that it is the people and the countries in the region who can determine whether there will be peace. She added that there is an enthusiasm in the DRC to deal with armed groups and build and strengthen state institutions.
Other issues that came up during the meeting were related to the Ugandan-mediated Kampala talks between the DRC and the M23 as well as the ICC and the view by some African countries that there is a preponderance of African situations on the Court’s docket. It is possible the ICC issue may be raised informally as well during Tuesday’s meeting with the AU PSC.
Before the meeting with Kagame, Council members had visited the Gisozi Genocide Memorial and the Mutobo demobilisation camp for former FDLR combatants. Demobilisation of former FDLR fighters is an area where there has been good cooperation between MONUSCO and Rwanda. Once Rwandan FDLR members leave the rebel group, MONSUCO then demobilises and transfers them to the government for reintegration and repatriation in their home communities.
The Kampala Visit
One of the main purposes of the meeting in Uganda was for Council members to be updated on the progress in the Kampala talks between the DRC and the M23, facilitated by the Minister of Defense of Uganda. Council members were told that progress continues to be made and an agreement could be announced quite soon. Council members were informed that the two major outstanding issues of amnesty and reintegration of M23 troops into the DRC armed forces (FARDC) may be approached through “provisional” amnesty, i.e. so long as reintegrated M23 troops conduct themselves professionally their amnesty would not be revoked. However, it seems M23 leaders responsible for egregious human rights violations such as child recruitment and sexual violence would not be eligible for such a provision.
The Allied Democratic Forces-National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF-NALU), an extremist Islamist armed group operating in the North Kivu province of the DRC near the border with Uganda, was also raised during the meeting with President Museveni. MONUSCO flagged their growing presence in the DRC as a worrisome development and assessed the group might be planning operations against the FARDC. MONUSCO also informed Council members that the group had consolidated several important business interests, such as timber and gold mining, in the area they controlled, a sign that they had more long term plans. It seems Museveni did not address the wider implications of the group’s presence in the DRC but instead indicated that Uganda could protect its own territory and had already pushed the group out. Overall, like Kagame, Museveni stressed that it was the responsibility of the DRC to deal with armed groups.
In comments to the press, Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant (UK), who is the lead on the Uganda leg, reiterated that this was a strategic moment to break the cycle of violence and the Council would follow the PSC Framework and Kampala talks closely and be supportive of these regional efforts toward peace.