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US urges DR Congo, rebels to reach peace deal

Jeeps full of M23 rebels drive towards the town of Sake in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo on November 30, 2012
Jeeps full of M23 rebels drive towards the town of Sake in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo on November 30, 2012

The United States called Thursday on the Democratic Republic of Congo and opposition rebels to end months of dragging negotiations and conclude a peace deal.

The talks in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, began on September 10, but have yet to make any real progress.

US special envoy to the Great Lakes Russ Feingold and the UN special envoy Mary Robinson are both in the region hoping to push the negotiations along.

"Now is the time for both parties to demonstrate their commitment to a peaceful resolution," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters in Washington.

"The envoys met today with the delegations to the talks calling for the parties to finalize an agreement and to promptly conclude the talks.

"These have been going on for 10 months. They're pivotal to moving things forward in the country, and... (the) message that's being sent on the ground, is that further delays would be counterproductive."

A file picture taken on September 4, 2013 shows Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) soldiers deployed near Kibati
A file picture taken on September 4, 2013 shows Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) soldiers deployed near Kibati

UN experts have accused Rwanda and to a lesser extent Uganda of aiding the M23 rebels in their 18-month-old rebellion against the DR Congo.

Rwanda has denied the charges, but Washington earlier this month slapped sanctions on Kigali for its alleged backing of the Congolese rebels who recruit child soldiers into their ranks.

The M23 was founded by former Tutsi rebels who were incorporated into the Congolese army under a 2009 peace deal.

Complaining the deal was never fully implemented, they mutinied in April 2012, turning their guns on their former comrades and launching the latest rebellion to ravage DR Congo's mineral-rich and conflict-prone east.

The UN and various rights groups have accused the M23 of atrocities including rape and murder in a conflict that has caused tens of thousands of refugees to flee.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame's government, also dominated by Tutsis, is accused of backing M23 rebels as part of a proxy war against Hutu rebels in the DRC and to seek influence in the country's mineral-rich eastern Kivu region.

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