An earlier version of this post mistakenly said that the ICGLR chair will pass to Congo-Brazzaville in January. Uganda will keep the chair for another year.
The peace talks in Kampala kicked off on December 9th before adjourning for the holidays on December 21st. We will have to wait until January 4th for the resumption––time for reflection. Until now, the talks have been stuck in the preamble as the two sides haggle over procedure.
First, there was the issue of whether M23 military commanders could attend, then the Congolese government refused to sign a formal ceasefire. Most worryingly, the two sides come with radically different ideas of what needs is being negotiated: the Congolese government intends to listen to the M23’s grievances and evaluate the March 23, 2009 agreement it signed with the CNDP and other armed groups; the M23 has voiced demands that range from electoral and security sector reform, to freeing Etienne Tshisekedi from house arrest, to knowing the truth about the attacks against Floribert Chebeya and Denis Mukwege.
Luckily for us, the Ugandan facilitation has compiled a list of the various demands, both as outlined by the March 23, 2009 deal and the twenty-one new demands made by the M23. This synopsis predates the Kampala talks but is useful nonetheless (see here). The facilitator, Defense Minister Crispus Kiyonga (accused by many Congolese to be too close to Mbusa Nyamwisi, a co-ethnic), has boiled these new grievances down to six:
- Assassinations of ex-CNDP soldiers, in particular of forty-six troops in Dungu––Kiyonga said he could confirm these allegations and asked for an investigation;
- Poor welfare of the army, in particular the embezzlement of salaries and poor living conditions––Kiyonga pushes for army reform;
- Reluctance to carry out operations against negative forces (FDLR, ADF-Nalu)––Kiyonga does not dwell on this;
- The marginalization of the eastern Congo, in particular the lack of infrastructure development and the embezzlement of revenues––Kiyonga does not dwell on this;
- Cheating by President Kabila in the 2011 elections––Kiyonga does not dwell on this;
- Kabila has not lived up to his campaign promises––Kiyonga does not dwell on this.
What about the March 23 Agreement? Here Kiyonga reports that Kinshasa has either made good or significant progress on 18 of the 24 articles, leaving six areas outstanding:
- National reconciliation––the government says the Human Rights Commission is being set up for this, but Kiyonga thinks this is insufficient;
- Community police––on a similar note, Kiyonga thinks more to be done to make this police force effective (even though in much of Masisi this police force had been hijacked by the ex-CNDP);
- Management of territory––here Kiyonga contradicts himself, initially saying the government had taken satisfactory steps to begin decentralization, then later saying their efforts had been insufficient;
- Return of misappropriated properties––Kiyonga says that not enough has been done on this, but it is unclear which properties need to be returned to whom;
- Management of natural resources––most Congolese will snicker when they see Kiyonga suggesting that there needs to be a better management of resources. This was a very vague statement of principle in the initial March 23, 2009 deal, difficult to operationalize or evaluate;
- International monitoring mechanism––the follow-up committee rarely met and President Obasanjo, the UN mediator, did not play a significant role after 2009.
En bref, Kiyonga focuses on the March 23, 2009 deal, not on the new grievances, and thinks that Kinshasa has complied with most of the peace deal. But he does not chart out a very clear path forward, and the recommendations are broad and unwieldy. That, combined with the yawning gap between the Congolese government and the M23, means that a possible settlement is still a long way off.