Museveni, Kabila reach agreement on M23 rebels

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Leaders Salva Kiir of South Sudan, Joseph Kabila of DR Congo, Jakaya Kikwete of

Leaders Salva Kiir of South Sudan, Joseph Kabila of DR Congo, Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, Yoweri Museveni, Uganda AU chairperson Dlamini Zuma and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame at the Great Lakes Extra Ordinary Summit at Speke Resort Munyoyo in September. Photo by PPU 

By Tabu Butagira

Posted  Tuesday, December 3  2013 at  02:00

Kampala- Congolese President Joseph Kabila yesterday flew in for talks with Ugandan counterpart Mr Museveni, which officials said aimed at re-setting bilateral relations stressed by mutual suspicion over the M23 rebellion.

The principals, according to State House, agreed during the closed-door meeting to bring to “conclusion as soon as possible” the hanging peace agreement between Kinshasa and M23 brokered by Uganda.

A DR Congo delegation led by Foreign Minister Raymond Tshibanda, who was present at yesterday’s talks, held protracted talks in Kampala with M23 leaders before declining last month to sign a final pact following the defeat of group in October.

Kinshasa said it could only sign onto a document committing M23 to formally declare an end to hostilities, but not a peace agreement because the Congolese army, supported by the UN-backed intervention brigade, had beaten Sultani Makenga’s group hands down in North Kivu province.

Uganda as the negotiator felt slighted. According to highly-placed government sources, President Museveni, who had stormed out of his own State House following the flopped peace agreement signing ceremony, later telephoned President Kabila and friendly leaders in southern Africa, particularly Angola, to get Kinshasa’s endorsement.

At yesterday’s meeting, the officials noted in a joint communiqué that conclusion of the process would enable the peaceful return of M23 ex-combatants and the completion of their demobilisation.

“This would further create appropriate conditions for the return of Congolese refugees living in neighbouring countries and the Internally Displaced Persons,” they noted.

Although a plethora of rebel and militia groups still hibernate in eastern Congo, the defeat of the stronger M23 has created relative stability, enabling President Kabila to undertake an unprecedented 1,000 kilometre drive from Kisangani via Goma to Rutshuru border town.

He reportedly told yesterday’s meeting at State House Entebbe, that he wants to conclude with M23 so as to embark on huge infrastructure projects in the mineral-rich but under-developed eastern DR Congo, and mob up negative elements, including the Allied Democratic Forces, hiding there.

Kampala and Kinshasa also agreed to reactivate the stalled joint permanent commission to tackle infrastructure, border demarcation and cross-border aggression issues between the neighbours.

The developments came as the United Nations, which has a 17, 000-strong peace keeping force in DR Congo, moved to deploy drones for surveillance over the vast country to track negative elements.