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EAC Summit split on role of M23

Kenya’s Ruto and Rwanda’s Kagame at a previous meeting

Arusha, Tanzania | THE INDEPENDENT | The ongoing efforts by the East African Community states to bring lasting peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo dominated the 21st Extraordinary Summit of the Heads of State, featuring disagreements on the peace process.

Burundi President, the chairperson, and host, Evariste Ndayishimiye found a hard time securing a common position on the role in the peace process, of the M23 rebel group, the main challenger to the DRC army.

It started with Kenya President William Ruto, congratulating the regional force for the achievements so far, including securing a ceasefire deal now two months in place, as well as improved security for the people and properties.

Ruto, the only other president apart from Ndayishimiye in attendance, also commended the DRC for extending the mandate of the regional force in the country by another six months.

Most of the discussions, which featured regional peace, and the proposed admission of Somalia, among others, were held behind closed doors, after which a plenary session involving the reading of the communique and swearing-in of new senior secretariat officials, was held.

The leaders also agreed to appoint a civilian head of the force, with the idea that this will “insulate” members of the armed forces from involvement in the political and related processes.

While reading the communique, Peter Mathuki, the EAC Secretary General, said that among other decisions, the leaders had directed that the EAC force facilitate the return of displaced persons to their homes and safeguard the areas vacated by the fighting groups.

He also said that the force should work “with all stakeholders” to visit the camps where the fighting groups were to be gathered as part of the process of disarming or reintegrating them.

However, Rwanda Prime Minister, Edward Ntungirente wanted it more clearly stated that the M23 would be part of the delegation to tour the collection centers. He said that they agreed in the discussions that M23 were stakeholders and were to be involved in the process as a concerned party.

However, this was interpreted by Antipas Mbusa Nyamwisi to mean that M23 was being given too much right to be part of the proceedings.

Speaking in French, Nyamwisi was specifically opposed to M23 being part of the delegation to tour and assess the suitability of Rumangabo and other camps where they would be briefly gathered with other forces.

However, Ntungirente insisted that he was raising what they had agreed on in the meeting and that the DRC minister was not being correct with his claims.

President Ruto expressed concern that “little details” were likely to derail the process which had already achieved a lot. He reasoned that visiting the places was all about assessing the suitability of the facilities there and that it would involve many more stakeholders, making it matter less whether or not M23 was involved.

South Sudan minister for the presidency who represented President Salva Kiir urged them to use South Sudan’s example where the rebels moved with the government soldiers to inspect the collection centers.

Ndayishimiye, the chairman of the summit suggested that since the facilitator of the mission is tasked to communicate to M23 about the collection centers, the rebels would have the opportunity to ask for all the answers. He then asked for the help of Tanzanian vice president, Philip Mpango to get a common position, and the Tanzania representative said M23 was already includes in “the other stakeholders”.

They then held to leave the clause as state meaning that M23 would be among the other stateholders to travel with the rest of the team. At the summit, different senior officials were sworn in including Ugandan Annet Mutaawe Ssemuwemba and Andrea Aguer from South Sudan as Deputy Secretaries General for Trade, Customs, and Monetary Affairs; and infrastructure, productive, social, and political sectors respectively.

South Sudan representative, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, the minister for presidential affairs said his country was happy for the first Senior most position that a countryman has attained. He also delivered President Salva Kiir’s offer of a million dollars towards the community’s work in the region and used the country’s qualifications to the World Cup basketball finals to preach about South Sudan as a transformed community.



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