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Great Lakes ministers for neutral force in DRC

A neutral force should immediately be dispatched to the volatile Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to rein in Gen. Bosco Ntaganda’s M23 bands accused of sowing mayhem in the country, Great Lakes defence ministers have resolved. This decision was reached at an Inter-ministerial committee meeting, which met on Monday at the Serena Conference Centre.

“In the spirit of the International Conference on the Great  Lakes region (ICGLR ) pact, protocols and regional mechanisms and with the view to operationalising the neutral international force in the shortest time, a meeting of ministers of Defence of the ICGLR  member states and experts from the African Union, the United Nations system and other regional organizations, should be held on August 15, at the latest,” reads a joint communiqué signed by ministers of various countries in the Great Lakes.

The latest communiqué will ease pressure on Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame who has come under harsh pillory from the international community over his perceived support of Ntaganda. M23 under the leadership of Ntaganda has used a scorched earth policy, which has left a trail of despair in the DRC.

On July 29, Britain — normally one of the strongest supporters of Kagame — announced it had suspended £16m in budgetary support to Rwanda. This came in the wake of a $200,000 cut in US military aid to Rwanda and a £4m cut from the Netherlands, aimed at improving the country’s judicial sector.

In a strongly worded 78-page rebuttal, Rwanda’s foreign minister, Louise Mushikiwabo said, “Rwanda has seen even more categorical reports come and go, but what is clear is that the current one has had an overwhelming effect, having drawn a wave of global reaction. We have seen reports come and go and this one, which is based on biased and unfounded allegations, will pass too”.

The communiqué also recommended that the international community should provide humanitarian assistance to the victims of the conflict. On the day the communiqué was released, Kagame had engaged shuttle-diplomacy, rushing to Kampala with a powerful delegation, which consisted of Defence Minister, Gen. James Kabareebe, and Mushikiwabo.

Kagame was the first to arrive at Speke Resort Munyonyo, yesterday, perhaps aware of the diplomatic crisis at hand. Thereafter DRC’s Joseph Kabila, the host President Yoweri Museveni, Tanzania’s Jakaya Kikwete, Burundi’s Pierre Nkurunziza and Kenya’s Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka arrived as well.

At about 2 pm, the heads of states engaged in a closed door meeting, which ended at 4pm. On their way out, Kikiwete and Kalonzo shared banter while Kagame, who cut a forlorn figure, walked slightly behind Museveni. Kabila and Nkurunziza were the last to emerge from the room.

The media expected to have an inter-face with the Heads of States but apparently there were a number of issues to mull over. However, journalists who had patiently waited to find out the outcome of the meeting were told the second meeting was also closed. The Presidents met till 7:30 pm and afterwards departed without any briefing to the media. The meeting continues tomorrow.


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