Interview: Regional force to operate under UN mission to eliminate DR Congo rebel groups

2013-01-26 19:31:02 GMT2013-01-27 03:31:02(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

By Ronald Ssekandi

ADDIS ABABA, Jan. 26 (Xinhua) -- A Neutral International Force proposed by Africa's Great Lakes region to eliminate all rebel groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) will work under the UN peace mission MONUSCO deployed in the vast central African country, a top regional official said here on Saturday.

Ntumba Luaba, the executive secretary of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), told Xinhua in an interview on the sidelines of the ongoing African Union summit that the member countries including those belonging to Southern African Development Community (SADC) agreed that the force be integrated into MONUSCO, but operating separately.

"It will be under MONUSCO but will have an independent operation and the region requested that the commander of that force be somebody from the region," Luaba said, noting that Tanzania will provide the commander of the special brigade.

He said the mandate of MONUSCO would also be upgraded by the UN Security Council, so that it can be able to enforce peace.

The bulk of the special brigade is expected to come from SADC member countries. The two regions of the ICGLR and the SADC estimated late last year that more than 4,000 troops would be needed.

"Most of the troops are going to come from the SADC Standby Force," said Luaba.

The brigade will be responsible for eliminating both local and foreign rebel groups operating in the eastern DRC.

Among the rebels groups holed up in the region are Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army, Allied Democratic Force and Rwanda's Interahamwe, a militia accused of the 1994 Rwanda genocide, Mai Mai militia and M23.

Uganda and Rwanda initially proposed that the regional force act independently without the involvement of MONUSCO, saying the UN force has done little to help end the fighting in the eastern DRC.

Luaba said because of the ongoing talks between the Congolese government and M23, the security situation in that part of the country is calm.

"For the moment, there are no people fighting in the sense that government and M23 are discussing in Uganda and everybody is expecting to see results of that meeting," he said.

M23 and the Congolese government delegation at the talks have already agreed on the evaluation of the peace accord signed between the CNDP, an armed militia group, and the government on March 23, 2009, the official added.

Members of M23 were former CNDP fighters. They launched the rebellion in April 2012, claiming that the Congolese government had failed to implement some of the clauses of the agreement.

Luaba said the Uganda-brokered talks were going on well until they hit a snag where M23 questioned the legitimacy of the Congolese government.

"The government delegation at the talks said that the question should not be raised since the government in place is an elected government. The M23 suspended the negotiation and requested to meet the chairperson of ICGLR who is Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni," Luaba said.

The official said the region was doing everything possible to end the DRC conflicts which have a spillover effect to neighboring countries.

"There are a lot of negative forces in DRC and they are causing a lot of refugees in the region. We are working towards stabilizing the region, getting rid of all the negative forces and work for the development of our region," he said.

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