Former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta will be in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday for a 48-hour working visit as efforts to end the war in eastern DRC continue. Mr Kenyatta is the East African Community’s mediator in efforts to end the war between DRC forces and the M23 rebels.
Mr Kenyatta will meet President Félix Tshisekedi to discuss the security situation in the eastern DRC region where fighting between the Congolese army (FARDC) and the M23 is still intense.
According to the programme announced by the Congolese president’s communication office, Kenyatta “plans to meet about 50 representatives of the communities of the provinces of Ituri, North and South Kivu as well as heads of institutions” during his stay in DRC.
The planned meetings with representatives of the communities from the troubled provinces of the DRC are a prelude to the third round of the Nairobi talks to be held in the last week of November.
Resume talks in Nairobi
According to a communiqué from the East African community, the Congolese government will resume talks in Nairobi with armed groups. This will be the third round of talks in the Kenyan capital after two rounds that brought together 30 representatives of the armed groups in the search for peace.
The diplomatic engagement spearheaded by the heads of state of the East African region, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region and the African Union, are also aimed at convincing Kinshasa to reintegrate the M23 into the process of peaceful peace-making. The rebels had been excluded from the talks because of renewed fighting with the FARDC (Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo) at the time the dialogue was launched in Kenya in April this year.
Lourenço, Tshisekedi meeting
Besides Mr Kenyatta, Angolan President João Lourenço will on Saturday meet his DRC counterpart Félix Tshisekedi, after having met on Friday with Rwandan President Paul Kagame in Kigali.
A delegation led by the Angolan Minister for External Relations Tete Antonio is already in Kinshasa to prepare for the arrival of President Lourenço, a mediator appointed by the African Union to relaunch the Luanda process, which consists of organising talks between Rwanda and the DRC in order to de-escalate the war in eastern Congo. Congolese authorities have accused Kigali of supporting the M23 rebels.
President Lourenço’s approach is to “seek a peaceful solution, through dialogue, to put an end to the tension in the east of the DRC,” said Mr Antonio, who added that “as a mediator, he is trying to listen to the two parties for a peaceful agreement”.
The DRC authorities are setting conditions for talks with the M23, which they describe as a terrorist movement.
“First of all, the M23 must stop its criminal activities; the M23 must withdraw from the occupied localities, all support for the M23 must cease and the Congolese, who have been driven out by the violence of war, must return to their homes,” said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Christophe Lutundula.
“We will not change these conditions. We will not negotiate the integrity and sovereignty of our country,” he added.
This means that it will not be a walk in the park in Kinshasa for Lourenço and Kenyatta. At the same time, President Félix Tshisekedi will find it difficult to back down on the conditions he has set, according to Mr Lutundula.