The Congolese Government delegation yesterday hit back at the M23 rebels, accusing them of committing “heinous” crimes in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo aimed at a peaceful resolution of the conflict during talks in Kampala.
The Congolese Foreign Affairs Minister said the rebels were guilty of, among other crimes murder, rape, torture and looting. The rebel delegation, which boycotted an earlier session on Monday for the government response, listened quietly as Mr Raymond Tshibanda read out what he called a “litany” of human rights violations committed by the rebels. He said the rebels were working closely with and were still being led by individuals indicted and wanted by the International Criminal Court for human rights violations, pointing particularly to General Bosco Ntaganda and Col. Sultan Makenga.
“M23 is an armed group which participated in a mutiny,” Mr Tshibanda said, “majority of their leaders are young people who have already committed heinous crimes, majority are former leaders of the NCDP,” he added.
He said both Kinshasa and international agencies had evidence to pin the M23 on murder, looting, recruitment of child soldiers among other charges. On the opening day of the talks, the leader of the M23 delegation, in a statement had accused Kinshasa of among others discriminating against Kinyarwanda speaking Congolese nationals in the east of the country and denying the region services.
Mr Francios Ruchogoza also accused the government of corruption and other violations.
The government delegation which was apparently taken by surprise on Sunday demanded an opportunity to respond to the accusations but on Monday, the day that had been set for the response the rebel delegation refused to attend the session, forcing a postponement to yesterday.
While the M23 did not respond to the statement in conference room, Mr Ruchogoza dismissed the accusations in comments to journalists outside after the talks closed. He said the leaders of M23 for both the political and military wing were well known. Bishop Jean Marrie-Runiga heads the political wing, he said.
The chief facilitator for the dialogue, Uganda’s Defence Minister, Dr Crispus Kiyonga, said he was keen to see the negotiations progress to agenda setting and ground rules as soon as possible.
“I would like to reiterate, what the leaders of both delegations have already reiterated and emphasized to me that we are here to find peace for our people in the Democratic Republic of Congo, so that they can go home, they can have services,” he said. “That is the position that has been reiterated by leaders of both delegations. I will keep in touch with both delegations so that we can agree on the agenda,” he added.