Freelance journalist (w/ BBC, Radio France, magazines), passionate about Africa, Europe, literature, music, arts, I work with Raoul Peck on his next film projects. Born in Paris, I have been based in Prague, Miami, London, Nairobi (covering Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Somalia) and Bristol, UK. Travelled to Italy, Haiti, Balkans/Caucasus, Tunisia, Liberia, South Africa, India, Mexico, Niger, Turkey, Iraq... This blog is to share thoughts and cultural discoveries from around the world.
DRC: Negotiations open with the M23
As negotiations between the Congolese govenement and the M23 rebels are opening in Uganda, to talk about the Democratic Republic of Congo and the conflict in the Eastern province of North Kivu, I received on Al Qarra TV Thierry Vircoulon, researcher for the International Crisis Group and expert on Central Africa.
Interview with Thierry Vircoulon, researcher for the International Crisis Group
Al Qarra TV - Today we’re here
to talk about the Democratic Republic of Congo and the conflict in the Eastern
province of North Kivu.And here with us
on Al Qarra is Thierry Vircoulon, researcher for the International Crisis Group
and expert on Central Africa. Mr Vircoulon, thanks for being with us.
Thierry Vircoulon – Hello.
Al Qarra TV -First of all, can
you help us understand what the M23 represents politically and militarily in
this region of the DR Congo?
Well, I think the M23 is actually the result of a mutiny
that happened in April, and led by General Bosco Ntaganda. As a result, the M23
is not really a political movement; it’s more a military movement. It doesn’t
really represent the Congolese Tutsis. If you look at the leadership, it is
composed of several tribes of this region but it would be much exaggerated to
say that the M23 is a political movement representative of a broad range of the
tribes in North Kivu.
Al Qarra TV - What is to be
expected from these negotiations between the government and the rebels?
Thierry Vircoulon – Basically,
what is at stake – the government has actually been forced to open the talks,
as you know, because for the last five months the government refused to talk
with the M23; it’s only because the M23 took over the city of Goma and because
also there was a mediation by a regional organisation called the ICGLR
(International Conference on the Great Lakes Region) that the government
actually accepted those talks. Those talks are going to be very difficult
because the agenda of the negotiation is not defined yet and there is going to
be the issue of will President Kabila or not in Kampala himself to negotiate
cause the M23 has been very firm on that and has requested direct talks with
him. There is not much that can be achieved through that negotiation except
legitimising the use of force to get a position in the government, a position in
the army. Everybody in the region is wondering if actually a peace deal is
signed between the M23 and the Congolese government, will this peace deal be
different from the one signed in 2009 between the CNDP of Laurent Nkunda and
the Congolese government. It seems that history may repeat itself during those
negotiations in Kampala.
Al Qarra TV – Is there even a
solid framework? And with the fact that it’s happening in Uganda, which is also
accused of involvement and without Rwanda, can we expect any decision soon
enough and anything that would be a breakthrough?
Thierry Vircoulon – The ICGLR, the
regional organisation mandated for those talks, to organize those talks seems
to want to replay the 2008 scenario, which means negotiations between the
rebels and the government, a peace deal, and the situation is supposed to calm
down in North Kivu. I think it’s very likely that at the beginning of 2013 we
replay the 2009 scenario, which would be a bad sign for the region and also for
the Congolese people because it would send a signal that actually there is no progress
in the region in terms of peace building of course. This will pose another
problem; this will pose of course an impunity problem, but that will also pose
a problem of implementation cause one of the main difficulty with the 2009
agreement was that was not a bad agreement but it was not really implemented. So
if we also have a deal in 2013, will it be implemented, that’s the question
that a lot of stakeholders are asking right now.
Al Qarra TV – And North Kivuif often the core region of many
conflicts and for that there are many deeper reasons including the use of
minerals and the fight for resources, sothis can still be recurrent and still lead to further conflicts?
Thierry Vircoulon – You have a
cycle of rebellions in the Kivus, same with the problem of conflict minerals,
the problem of land dispute, the problem of Rwandan interference, basically it
is some sort of economic war in the Kivus. The question is who is controlling
the natural resources, which are minerals and also wood and this kind of
things. In that region for now the last 15 years, armed groups but also
businessmen and politicians have been controlling the natural resources and
Rwanda is trying to exert some sort of economic and military control over those
resources in the North Kivu, and that’s really the core problem. So if we want
to have a real exit strategy and break the circle of violence in this region,
it is very important to address the root cause of the conflict in the Great