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Kagame, Kabila, Museveni, M23 meetings

By Independent Investigations Team

The unreported details

On Nov.17, Rwandan President Paul Kagame was addressing cadets at a passing out parade in Gaako, Rwanda when a sentry handed him a handwritten note saying: `intense fighting has flared-up again in eastern Congo as M23 rebels are pushing to Goma.’

According to sources close to Kagame, this new and unexpected development worried him deeply. He had been under intense pressure from many players in the international community to prevail over the rebel group against DR Congo President Joseph Kabila in eastern DR Congo, M23, to halt their offensive.

He had reached them, cajoled and on occasion even threatened to get them to suspend operations. The note meant that the next few weeks would involve renewed international pressure on Rwanda to do the impossible – asking an independent rebel group to stop operations when it was winning. Contrary to what some believe, Kagame does not control M23. And neither do the rebels consult Kigali before they launch any offensive.

Kagame also knew that any solution to the Congo problem lay largely in the hands of President Joseph Kabila.  If Kabila could accept to talk to the rebels, he would have given him Kagame leverage to talk to M23.

The next day, Nov.18, Kagame sent an envoy known to Kabila with a special message. The message was asking Kabila to meet Kagame to discuss the deteriorating situation in the Eastern DRC and ways in which Rwanda could help. Sources say that previously, Kabila had shunned such meetings, preferring to be comforted by the UN and other actors in the international community. But the rapid rebel advances seemed to have convinced the Congolese president that he needed his neighbors more than the UN to find a solution to his problems.

Panic over Goma

On Nov. 19, Kabila picked his telephone and called Kagame saying he needs a meeting as soon as possible. He did not have time to wait for the envoy to return to Kigali. It was the first time in as many months that the two presidents were speaking directly on phone. Previous telephone and face to face discussions had produced little or nothing and both had given up. Now, Kabila seemed much more anxious to talk.

He suggested that the two presidents meet in Dar Es Salam under the facilitation of President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania. Kagame refused saying that there is already a process of resolving the issue through the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) chaired by President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda. Besides, Kagame is said to have added, Uganda is also affected by the fighting in eastern DRC as it has been receiving refugees from that country.

Immediately Kabila ended his phone call to Kagame, he called Museveni and told him about his discussions with the Rwandan president and informed him of his desire to fly to Kampala “right away” for the meeting. Museveni, sources at State House Kampala say, was initially taken aback by the sudden request from Kabila. “Give me a few minutes to consult and get back to you,” he told the DRC president.

Museveni ended the call and gathered his thoughts. When he asked for the latest information on the fighting in Eastern DRC, he was told that the rebels are going to take Goma in a few hours. “The Congolese army seems to be in no spirit to fight,” Museveni’s intelligence reported, “Goma is going to fall anytime soon – today or tomorrow morning.”

Museveni picked the phone immediately and called Kagame. “Paulo,” he said, “What is happening in Eastern Congo?”

“I hear the rebels are advancing on Goma,” Kagame answered, “My people are trying to verify and give us a proper report.”

Museveni told Kagame that Kabila had just called him suggesting an impromptu meeting the next day. Kagame told the Ugandan president that he had agreed with Kabila a few minutes earlier about the meeting.

“I am willing and ready to come especially because Kabila seems to have realised that we are part of the solution, not part of the problem,” Kagame reportedly said. Museveni concurred and agreed to the meeting which they scheduled for Nov.21. The M23 fought and entered Goma on the same day, Nov. 20.

Meanwhile, Kagame told a stunned presidential team of his impromptu trip to Uganda the next day where they had not even sent an advance team yet.

Weeks earlier, both Museveni and Kagame had separately called M23 asking them to halt their offensive. The fighting had died out. The M23 onslaught that captured Goma was without notice. The rebels had resumed fighting, taking the two presidents by surprise. When Museveni inquired why, M23 said Kabila’s forces had attacked first.

Kagame, sources say, got the same answer. Both presidents were now determined to work with Kabila because he had demonstrated that he wanted them to help him reinstate his authority in Goma. He had also promised both presidents in the aforementioned telephone conversations that he was willing to talk directly with M23 to resolve outstanding issues.

According to sources, it is in this spirit that the impromptu summit between the three presidents was held in Kampala on Nov.21. And it is in this spirit that Museveni and Kagame agreed to ask M23 to halt their operations and also leave Goma.

When Kabila arrived in Uganda, he held a meeting with Museveni alone and another with Kagame alone. Later, Museveni and Kagame also held a meeting without Kabila. After these meetings, the three leaders held a joint summit. It was a mere coronation since most of what was supposed to be done had been agreed in the telephone conversations that had taken place the previous day. Therefore, the three leaders agreed to call upon M23 to pull out of Goma while Kabila agreed to meet face to face with M23 and listen to their grievances. Congolese Foreign Minister Raymond Tshibanda told journalists that Kabila had, with Museveni’s facilitation, met with the political leader of the eastern DR Congo rebel group, Jean-Marie Runiga Lugerero. The Congolese government had vowed not to negotiate with the rebels despite their threats to take over Bukavu and Kinsasha a day after they had taken over Goma. (See related story for details of the meeting). Without international support, the three leaders had achieved what had eluded the region for months.

Museveni wary of rebels

M23 know that they need allies or at the very minimum the cooperation of Uganda and Rwanda to place their demands on the table. Thus, although Kampala and Kigali may not control the rebel movement, the two leaders have some leverage and M23 cannot afford to ignore them.

According to sources close to the Ugandan and Rwandan presidents, Museveni and Kagame do not want to allow M23 to expand their theatre of operations. Incidentally, and perhaps something that Kabila’s advisors in Kinshasa have failed to see, Uganda and Rwanda are hostile to rebel activity in the east.

According to highly placed sources, Museveni is wary that rebel activity in eastern DRC right at the border with Uganda threatens important investments in oil prospecting, drilling and exploitation. The last thing Kampala wants is an eastern Congolese region controlled by a rebel army.

Rwanda has similar apprehension. Most of the critical investments it is making border the Congo. Whether it is high-end tourism especially mountain gorillas in Virunga, methane gas in Lake Kivu, the mining of Colton in Changugu or the development of the Timber Industry in Nyungwe. Fate has placed Rwanda’s economic opportunities at its border with Congo. Thus, unbeknown to Kabila, Museveni and Kagame share a common discomfort with M23 as he does. The disagreement between Museveni and Kagame on the one hand and Kabila on the other is not the aim but the method of dealing with M23.

Security sources in Kampala and Kigali say that Museveni and Kagame believe that Kabila’s army is too weak and corrupt. It has no capacity to defeat the M23, leave alone many other rebel movements that are springing up all over the eastern DRC region.

Besides, the Congolese army cannot control most of the vast territory of their country. Attempts to seek a military solution to the rebel problem would increase instability in the region, hence undermining the interests of Uganda and Rwanda. Kampala and Kigali are therefore afraid to openly side with Kabila, a decision that would alienate the rebels who can also make the situation bad for the two countries.

To resolve this intricate problem, Kampala and Kigali want to remain on good terms with both Kinshasa and the rebels and leverage this to get the two to talk and find political accommodation.

“Only by uniting the two can Uganda and Rwanda hope to get what they want,” a security strategist in Kampala told The Independent on condition of anonymity, “Taking sides and supporting one party is a road to nowhere.”

Kinshasa radicals

According to people close to M23, the rebel army has little interest in capturing Kinshasa and kicking Kabila out of power. This is because of M23’s own internal organisational deficiencies but also because of the complexities of Congolese politics.

Indeed, M23’s disinterest and incapacity to take Kinshasa makes it ever more risky for either Uganda or Rwanda to rely on them.

The 5th ICGRL Summit in Kampala on Nov. 24 confirmed that the Museveni, Kabila, and Kagame meetings had made significant progress towards resolving the conflict.

The meeting was attended by Presidents Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, Kabila, Mwai Kibaki of Kenya, the African Union Commission leader, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and several other representatives of bodies and countries.

The International Crisis Group says that for a lasting solution to be reached, among others, the political agreements signed in the Kivus need to be properly implemented. It adds that the international community has to consider withdrawing funds for stablisation to have Congolese authorities improve political dialogue and governance in the administration and in the army in the east.

The Independent has learnt that in the closed door meeting, President Museveni laid down a road map to resolve the Congo conflict based on previous meetings held between him, Kabila, and Kagame.

Previously, President Museveni had initiated talks between M23 and Congolese officials in Kampala to prepare the two parties for talks following requests from Kabila and the United Nation’s Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon. Kabila and Ban had made personal calls to Museveni requesting him to stop the M23 who at the time were threatening to take over Goma. Museveni made the call and announced at an ICGLR meeting that the talks were on-going.

However, as the talks went on, the UN group of experts in its report on the crisis in Congo accused Uganda of supporting the M23. The accusations have drawn harsh criticism from Uganda and threats to pull out of all peacekeeping missions, including in Somalia.

But Kabila invited journalists from Uganda and told them that he believed the report was the truth about what had been happening in eastern Congo.

Experts say Kabila has been under pressure from those in his government who urge him not to listen to Uganda, Rwanda and M23, which they claim is an extension of the two country’s interests.

This might explain why Kabila appears as calm as a lamb while in Kampala but roar like a lion when back in Kinshasa.

He must appease the extreme radical fringe in the Congolese capital who view him as an imposter allied to Rwanda and Uganda. Kabila spent the formative part of his youth in the two countries and participated in their wars as a soldier.

The double-speak has, however, frustrated politicians and diplomats in the region who blame him for failing to put his house in order and created tensions which threaten to suck in all East Africa countries and some from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.

UN hammered

The UN, which has made DR Congo the biggest and most expensive peace mission in the world for over a decade, was criticised at the ICGLR Summit.

Tanzania’s Kikwete, who has agreed to contribute troops and command to the Neutral International Force, took on the United Nation’s Stabilisation Mission in Congo (MONUSCO) in his hour-long presentation.

But it was the South African representative who passionately expressed most frustration with the UN for limiting the MONUSCO mandate to peace keeping only and not enforcement. This puts UN soldiers at risk because while they are shot at, they cannot shoot back. The emotional presentation led the chair, President Museveni to seek a clarification as to whether the sentiments were South Africa’s or the official’s.

But the UN has been cagey about revising Monusco’s mandate to peace enforcement, which includes engaging in combat, because it could lead some troop contributing countries to withdraw their soldiers and discourage others from contributing troops. To this Museveni told the meeting that if the UN is worried about this, then they should give the money to regional efforts that are willing to take the risk.

President Kabila told the meeting that he would raise the US$100 million required at the start of the ceasefire process. The meeting also resolved that MONUSCO should occupy and provide security in the neutral zone, and a joint force comprising one company of the Neutral Force, another of the Congolese army and another of M23 should be deployed.

Obvious winners from this process so far are Museveni and Kagame whose role as dependable mediators has been cemented, and M23 who now have official recognition. The losers include the UN and Kabila, who must still walk the tight-rope between remaining cordial with Museveni and Kagame while spewing vitriol at them to appease the Kinshasa radicals.

Executive summary of  M23 grievances presented to President  Museveni

5.2  The M23 leadership presented 21 grievances to President Museveni.

The grievances are in two broad categories viz;

(a)  Those that relate to the agreement between the GODRC and CNDP Of 23/3/2009. These are 11 grievances numbered 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,11 & 14. These have therefore been discussed in paragraph 5.1 which discusses evaluation of the implementation of the 23/3/2009 agreement.

(b) Those not directly related to the agreement. There are 10 of these, numbers, 10,12,13,15,16,17,18,19.20 & 21

8.0 Conclusion

8.1 The Government has implemented reasonably provisions, 1,2,3,7,9,11; 12.3,12.7, 12.8 in the agreement of 23/3/2009.

8.2. There are provisions  in the agreement where performance  was significant but not fully satisfactory. This is in respect of articles, 5.1; 5.2; 6; 10; 12.1; 12.2; 12.4; and 14.

8.3. Government’s performance has been less than satisfactory in respect to provisions, 4; 5.5; 8; 12.5; 13 and his relate to:-

S/No Article Provision
1 4 National reconciliation
2 5.5 Interim community police
3 8 Management of territory
4 12.5 return of misappropriated properties
5 13 Management of natural resources
6 15 International monitoring mechanism

8.4 Special efforts will be required to quickly reform the army

8.5 There are issues that will require investigations so that they are ruled in or ruled out and handled accordingly. These include the allegations relating to massacres and release of prisoners, and land grabbing.

8.6 The welfare of the army needs priority attention

9.0 Recommendations

9.1 Sustainable resolution of the conflict and instability in East of DRC requires a political solution

9.2  Every effort be made within the ICGLR initiative to return the warring parties in DRC to the negotiating table so that the path of reconciliation can be restarted.

9.3  The Government of DRC will require massive financial and technical assistance to fully implement the agreement reached in 2009.

9.4  A strong regional and national mechanism will be required to facilitate confidence building and tracking implementation of agreed positions.

9.5  Four principles must be followed in a sequenced manner in handling the situation in DRC.  These are:

(a) Peace and stability (b) Reconciliation

(c) Democratization (d) Justice.

9.6 In this respect the practice of indicting some actors in the crisis without coordinating with the overall effort to stabilize the DRC is a complicating factor that should be avoided.

S/No Grievance Related article in agreement of 23/3/19
1 The return of the refugees and their families Did not take place 6.2
2 Displaced people are still in IDP CAMPS 6.2
3 The integration of the soldiers of the CNDP in the army did not take place (or in an imperfect way) 1.1a
4 All the armed groups did not become political parties. 1.1b
5 Amnesty did not take place 3
6 The recognition of the ranks did not take place 12.8
7 The end of the crisis had political aspects in particular integration in the institutions (GOVERNMENT, Embassy, public company–) that did not take place. 12.1, 12.2, 12.3
8 The Government of DRC should concentrate in tracking the negative forces. This was not done or was carried out partially. 4
9 It had been agreed that part of CNDP soldiers will 5.5 be transformed into local police force to protect returned refugees. This was not done 5.5
10 The Government of DRC should concentrate in tracking the negative forces. This was not done or was carried out partially. 0
11 After the agreements the CNDP left its space to the Government. This one did not carry out its duty 12.4
12 The Government of the DRC resists the operations against the negative forces. 0
13 60 ex-CNDP were arrested and killed in Dungu. Only one survived. Another group that travelled to Kindu sequestered and then bitten (beaten) .No death was registered. The Government never punished anybody. This is a case of impunity persistence. 0
14 The agreement planed an agreement a follow up committee. Presidents Mkapa and Obasanjo 14 & 15
15 Soldiers wages were systematically diverted and in certain places not at all 0
16 Diversion of soldiers rations 0
17 Bad social condition of soldiers (no military infrastructure) 0
18 Discrimination of the East in customs payment 0
19 The truth of the November 2011 election: Kabila cheated
20 In 2006 Kabila had promised much in the East. He has forgotten to respect its commitment. 0
21 No big store, no supermarket in the East of DRC 0

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