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Mediated by Uganda, the peace negotiations kicked off last year after the M23 rebels agreed to pull of the provincial town of Goma which they had earlier captured from the DRC forces.
However, they stalled when DRC forces launched military operations against the rebels.
The talks would later resume in January 2012 with the M23 delegation being led by Rene Abandi.
The M23 last week renounced rebellion as part of the requirements by the international community for the signing of the peace agreement.
The Movement’ military commander, Brig Sultani Makenga, recently led over 1,500 soldiers into Mgahinga National Park in Kisoro, Uganda to allow the disarmament and demobilization process.
The world is eagerly waiting to read the contents of the agreement, especially on how government intends to address the issues of refugees in neighbouring countries, lack of basic social services and infrastructure in Kivu and reintegration of M23 combatants in the mainstream army.
Russell D. Feingold, Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, told press last week that “It’s not like this has to be negotiated; it’s already negotiated. It’s (agreement) ready to be signed.”
He added: “Again, though, this would only resolve one aspect of the issue, the very serious problem of the M23. It does not deal with the root cause – all the other root causes of the problem, does not deal with the so-called FDLR and the ADF and other armed groups and all the issues about what the Democratic Republic of the Congo has to do in order to reform itself. That is part of the broader framework.”
Russell said the international community believes “this signing would not only solve this one problem; it would lead and give momentum to the broader effort where, we hope, through a broader mediated dialogue, the actual countries involved would be at the table. Not the M23, per se, or that kind of a group, but the people and the entities at the table would be Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, and perhaps other countries from the region.”
The US official who has been part of the negotiations further observed that in terms of how the process will work – disbanding the M23 and demobilizing them, disarming them – the agreement that is yet to be signed has very specific provisions that provide for the sequencing of how the group will be disarmed; “where, for example, they would be in a cantonment zone, which is important because they need to be protected from other armed groups.”
He said disarming the rebels and not provide them protection would be obviously unreasonable and not something they would sign on to.
“So there is a very carefully worked out sequence of steps.”
Russell said the process also raises the question of groups of those who cannot get amnesty.
“There is also an important step that has to be taken, which is the passing of a national amnesty law by the Congolese Government. That amnesty law will not provide amnesty for war crimes or crimes against humanity for people who have committed those crimes. It will only – if this agreement goes through the way I hope it will and believe it will – it will only provide amnesty for the – sort of the rank-and-file members of M23 for purposes of having been part of a rebellion,” he said.
“In other words, they’re forgiven for having started or been involved in a rebellion as long as they pledge individually to not rebel again. And if they do rebel again or participate in rebellion, they lose their amnesty, but no amnesty for the type of people who have committed crimes against humanity and international crime.”
Russell explained a major distinction between this and the 2009 agreement.
“Actually the March 23 – M23 agreement in 2009 that did give that kind of amnesty to people who committed major crimes. In fact, they allowed them to come back into the Congolese military. That is not happening in this case if this agreement goes through the way I believe it will go through, and certainly, the international community and the United States would not support such an agreement. I also believe that the Congolese Government would never sign such an agreement this time.”
This implies the likes of Makenga, Vianney Kazarama and other commanders are set for prosecution.