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M23 and DRC Government Resume Negotiations … Grudgingly

Bertrand Bisimwa, M23 Rebels Leader

Bertrand Bisimwe, M23 Rebels Civilian Leader

Rwandan backed M23 Congolese rebels and the DRC Government have resumed negotiations in Kampala on Tuesday, September 10, 2013 after a one-day delay. DRC Government Foreign Affairs Minister Raymond Tshibanda, who leads the DRC Government delegation arrived in Kampala on Monday night where he found Rene Abandi, who leads the delegation of M23 rebels. The M23 rebels, weakened by the recent relentless ground attacks and bombings by government troops,FARDC, supported by the United Nations Intervention Brigade, were forced to pull out of their positions and eventually to come back to the negotiation table.
They also seem to have given up their initial pre-conditions, with only two post conditions remaining: the resolution of the problem caused by Rwandan rebels, FDLR, and the return and resettlement of Tutsi Congolese refugees. Also, their demands have shifted. Initially, M23 rebels wanted to be integrated in FARDC, lead the Eastern DRC, and have leading posts within the DRC government. Now, their main demand is a “Marshall Plan” for Eastern DRC (see here).

The two parties must reach a final peace agreement within two weeks; otherwise, the UN intervention Brigade will resume attacks on M23 rebels and disarm them by force. These requirements were outlined during the summit of the Heads of State of ICGLR held in Kampala on September 5, 2013.

According to M23 rebels sources, Rene Abandi has received specific instructions from Rwandan General Paul Kagame, M23 Commander General Sultani Makenga, and M23 Leader Bertrand Bisimwa that he must reach an agreement with the DRC government. This, according to the sources, will help save the face of the armed group, currently at the edge of disintegration due to international pressure, massive casualties and desertions within its troops, and the withdrawal of Rwandan Defense Forces special forces who formed the backbone of the fighting forces. Hence, it is expected that an agreement will be signed within 14 days.
This optimism was shared by the Ugandan Defense Minister and the mediator, Crispus Kiyonga, who told the media in Kampala on Tuesday, September 10, 2013: “The parties have expressed determination to ensure that the balance of the agreement will be implemented.”

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