Congo Watch: DR Congo: CNDP Nkunda's demands include renegotiation of a $9 billion infrastructure & mining investment deal struck by the gov't with China

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

DR Congo: CNDP Nkunda's demands include renegotiation of a $9 billion infrastructure & mining investment deal struck by the gov't with China

Rwanda and Congo, which have long accused each other of backing rebel groups in east Congo hostile to their governments, agreed on Friday [Dec. 05] to joint operations against the FDLR.

But action on the ground seems a long way off as analysts say Congo's army is in no state to carry out effective anti-guerrilla operations. Rwanda has agreed to help with planning and intelligence but not to send its own soldiers.

Kenya was to host peace talks on Monday [Dec. 08] between Democratic Republic of Congo's government and eastern rebels led by dissident Tutsi General Laurent Nkunda.

Neither Kabila nor Nkunda will take part in the Nairobi talks.

Nkunda's economic demands include better governance and renegotiation of a $9 billion infrastructure and mining investment deal struck by the government with China.

Nkunda also says he and his rebels should be integrated into the national army. [Note: recently the same request was made of the Ugandan government by LRA leader Joseph Kony. See Congo Watch's sister site Uganda Watch.]

Source: December 08, 2008 Reuters report:
Q+A - Can Nairobi talks deliver peace to east Congo?

Kenya was to host peace talks on Monday [Dec. 08] between Democratic Republic of Congo's government and eastern rebels led by dissident Tutsi General Laurent Nkunda.

The talks follow weeks of fighting in Congo's North Kivu province which has displaced more than a quarter of a million civilians and during which the rebels have extended the area under their control, routing the government army.

The negotiations were meant to be the first direct talks between the two sides. However, over the weekend, Congo's government said it was expanding the talks to include another 20 armed groups operating in North Kivu. This has angered the rebels, who want only to negotiate directly with President Joseph Kabila's government.

This latest development will add confusion to the already daunting task of trying to end a chaotic conflict that has its roots in Rwanda's 1994 genocide but has also been fuelled by years of poor governance and illegal mineral exploitation.

The following are some questions and answers about the meeting and whether it can help resolve the east Congo conflict.

WHO IS IN NAIROBI?

Neither Kabila nor Nkunda will take part in the talks. Nkunda's National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) rebel delegation is led by Jean-Michel Kambasu Ngeve, Nkunda's No. 2, and includes legal and military assistants who have been involved in previous talks.

The government team is being led by Julien Paluku, governor of North Kivu, and Raymond Tshibanda, Minister for Regional Cooperation and formerly head of Kabila's cabinet.

Also present will be Apollinaire Malu Malu, who oversaw a January 2008 peace process for east Congo that included Nkunda's CNDP and more than 20 other rebel and militia groups. Nkunda has since repudiated this deal as favouring the government.

The other groups who have been invited include various pro-government militia broadly known as Mai Mai and Rwandan Hutu rebels who are based in Congo's east. Some of these Hutu rebels, now known as the FDLR, took part in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus and have since been used as allies by Congo's weak government army during a decade of war.

WHY ARE ALL THE GROUPS BEING INVITED?

The rebels have rejected a return to the January peace process -- known as Amani, Swahili for "Peace" -- as they say it has failed and insist on face-to-face talks with the government.

The government's decision to invite other groups reflects the myriad of fighters on the ground in North Kivu, where confused clashes have continued despite a ceasefire declared by Nkunda in late October.

Both the government and the rebels have said that the first aim of the Nairobi talks should be formalising a broad ceasefire, which includes the government's allied factions.

But this is also likely to complicate matters as the various armed groups have confusing and often changing agendas. The move to include many groups is rejected by Nkunda's rebels, who may feel the government is trying to undermine their military dominance by diluting the focus of the talks.

WHAT DO NKUNDA'S REBELS WANT?

When he launched his rebellion four years ago, Nkunda said he was fighting to protect fellow Tutsis from attacks by the FDLR Hutu rebels. Questions of minority representation in the government and the disarmament of the FDLR remain key.

But Nkunda has broadened his agenda and has spoken of seeking "national liberation" and of "marching on Kinshasa". He is unlikely to cross 1,500 km (900 miles) of mostly bush and take the capital but he is playing on popular frustrations with Kabila's rule in the vast, mineral-rich former Belgian colony.

Consequently, his economic demands include better governance and renegotiation of a $9 billion infrastructure and mining investment deal struck by the government with China.

Nkunda also says he and his rebels should be integrated into the national army.

WHAT IS THE LIKELIHOOD OF PROGRESS AT THE TALKS?

After numerous previous peace processes, many are sceptical about the chances for success.

But diplomats say it is better for the sides to be talking rather than fighting. Numerous war crimes have been reported and over 250,000 people have fled their homes since late August in what the United Nations calls a "humanitarian catastrophe".

In persuading the government to reluctantly talk to the rebels, Olusegun Obasanjo, a former Nigerian president who is now the U.N.'s envoy for the region, has achieved an advance.

But the invitation to the other 20 armed groups could leave the Nairobi meetings bogged down in rows and procedure.

There is also the thorny question of the FDLR Hutu rebels, which have been at the heart of two Great Lakes region wars.

Rwanda and Congo, which have long accused each other of backing rebel groups in east Congo hostile to their governments, agreed on Friday to joint operations against the FDLR.

But action on the ground seems a long way off as analysts say Congo's army is in no state to carry out effective anti-guerrilla operations. Rwanda has agreed to help with planning and intelligence but not to send its own soldiers.

(Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Pascal Fletcher) (Dakar Newsroom +221 33 864 5076)

(For full Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit: http://africa.reuters.com/)

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