Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa has called on the government of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to follow through on its obligations in regard to integrating the M23 remnants as agreed upon in the Nairobi Accord signed in December 2013.
The Minister while discussing Uganda’s role on promoting regional peace and stability on Thursday hinted on the outcomes of its mediation in the stalemate between the DRC government and the M23 rebels which still hang in balance.
“We [Uganda] were mediators between M23 and DRC and reached an agreement on an intervention brigade that went in under United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO),” Kutesa said while presiding over the maiden annual Uganda Council on Foreign Relations lecture at Hotel Africana.
“In the Nairobi accord, the DRC government was supposed to integrate the M23 in its community, army, some of them given land and those who were interested in forming a political party to go ahead and form them. Many years have passed but nothing has been done,” he said.
Some of the M23 insurgents who were caught on the Ugandan side of the border were disarmed and held in Bihanga in South Western Uganda.
Kutesa said that this has put Uganda in a difficult position asking DRC to fast track the process of resettling them.
“We have waited all this years for the DRC to honor its obligations but nothing has moved. We have a problem – these people (M23 in Uganda) have no status here. They are not prisoners, they are not refugees. What do we do with them?” he said.
“Some of them [M23] were trying to regroup and go back but again we arrested them. We can’t have this perpetually. We need to engage further and hope that the DRC government will honor its obligations under the Accord.”
In his presentation that largely rotated around Uganda’s foreign policy, Kuteesa highlighted regional integration and maintaining a secure neighborhood as some of the priorities in safeguarding Uganda’s interests.
Through these efforts, he said, Uganda has advanced the principle of ‘regional approaches in seeking global solutions’.
Regarding the long standing conflict in Somalia, he reiterated the need for the Somali government to establish a national army saying that sustaining AMISOM peacekeepers would not create a solution.
“We have been in Somalia for 10 years and we don’t intend to stay there. Why should we?”
Kutesa noted that; “It is important that while we advance in fighting Al-Shabab by giving capacity to AMISOM now, we should also concentrate on creating a Somali national army so that they can take the security of their country in their hands. Our view is that if we stay there for a long time, AMISOM will become part of the problem not the solution.”
Tuesday’s lecture attracted a host of diplomats including the French Ambassador to Uganda Stephanie Rivoal, the UN Resident Coordinator in Uganda Rosa Malango and the South Korean Ambassador Park Jong-Dae among others.
Ambassador Jong-Dae sought Uganda’s take on the nuclear tensions in the Korean Peninsula to which Kuteesa responded saying; “We don’t support the proliferation of weapons and we believe that those who own them should have them destroyed. We are concerned with the ongoing in the Korean peninsula and the heightened tension calling on North Korea to resort to talks.”
On what Uganda’s policy is in as far as democracy within regional politics is concerned, the Foreign Minister said that the country is has been at the forefront of promoting democracy, inclusiveness and human rights in the East African Community.
“You have to have a democratic dispensation for you to achieve political stability and economic development. So, we promote the rule of law and adherence to human rights and we condemn wherever they are violated for example in countries like Burundi and South Sudan we have been insisting on talks that are inclusive so that nobody is left out,” Kutesa said.
He however added that Uganda cannot impose democracy on another country.