High level talks between the presidents of Rwanda and DR Congo got underway in Uganda on Tuesday aimed at quelling mounting tension in the region caused by a recent upsurge in rebel fighting. Leaders hope to set up a neutral force in the region.
AFP - The presidents of Rwanda and DR Congo began talks Tuesday with regional leaders aiming to tackle a recent wave of unrest in eastern DR Congo and set up a force to neutralise rebel groups there.
The meeting began as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Rwanda and other countries in the region to cut off support for rebel forces.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is hosting the two-day summit of the 11-member International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), aimed to defuse mounting tensions between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, who have traded accusations of supporting each other's rebels.
Rwanda's Paul Kagame and his Congolese counterpart Joseph Kabila began talks late Tuesday, several hours behind schedule, at a lakeside resort outside Kampala.
As the Kampala meeting started, Clinton, speaking in South Africa, urged Rwanda to help disarm the M23 rebel group and quit supporting it.
"We urge all states of the region, including Rwanda, to work together to cut off support for the rebels M23 and disarm them and to bring their leaders to justice," Clinton said.
Leaders from Burundi, Tanzania, Kenya and Sudan were also present in Kampala at the talks.
The United Nations is represented by Abou Moussa, special representative for Central Africa, the summit's organisers said.
Kinshasa charges that Rwanda is arming the M23 mutiny, which has battled regular forces in the eastern DR Congo since April, while Kigali accuses its neighbour of plotting attacks with Rwandan Hutu rebels based in the same region.
A UN report published in June said there was ample evidence that Kigali was actively involved in the M23 rebellion, led by a renegade Congolese general who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.
Congolese civil society groups have also accused Kampala of supporting M23, claims denied by Uganda.
Fighting has displaced more than 220,000 people in the province since April, the UN said Tuesday. More than 57,000 others have fled to Rwanda and Uganda.
The UN's peacekeeping mission in DR Congo, MONUSCO, expressed its "profound concern" over evidence the M23 was recruiting soldiers by force, including children.
"While forced recruitment by different armed groups has long characterised conflicts in DR Congo, the number of persons recruited has increased considerably since the resumption of hostilities in the east of the country," MONUSCO chief Roger Meece said in a press statement.
MONUSCO said more than 100 cases of forced recruitment, including 26 children, had been documented since April, and there were reports of those who resisted being executed.
UN humanitarian affairs chief Valerie Amos meanwhile travelled Tuesday to the eastern city of Goma, an area hit hard by the conflict. She is scheduled to visit a makeshift camp for the displaced on Wednesday, then travel Thursday to a refugee camp in Rwanda.
Experts say the latest turmoil is the result of an ongoing battle for control of the mineral-rich region, in which Rwanda has long been accused of maintaining a stake by using Congolese militias as proxies.
Kagame told AFP in mid-July that both sides had agreed "in principle" to accept a neutral force to restore the peace, but Kigali and Kinshasa hold divergent views of which troops would be neutral.
Even if a compromise is reached, the troops will need to be capable of routing some of the most battle-hardened fighters in the region, be it the M23 or the FDLR rebels, a Rwandan Hutu group.
Date created : 2012-08-08