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.


December, 2012

By Melissa Chemam


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 Kivu if 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, so this 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 Lakes.

Al Qarra TV – Mr. Vircoulon, thank you.

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