News24

Defence ministers meet on DRC

2012-08-17 14:33

Goma - Seven defence ministers from Africa's central Great Lakes region have met in Goma in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo to try to tackle unrest there, a statement said.

The ministers from Angola, Burundi, Congo, DRC, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda held talks overnight on Thursday and "identified urgent actions needed with a view to ensuring that combat ceases completely in eastern DRC," the final communiqué said.

They "prepared the means for making operational a neutral international force to deploy in the east of DRC", under a mandate from the African Union and with UN backing.

The force should comprise troops from African countries, the text said, without giving details.

Eastern DRC has been volatile and rife with rival militia and rebel forces since the end in 2003 of a war that engulfed large tracts of the vast central African country.

Most recently, the DR Congo army has been fighting deserters who have formed a rebel group called M23 and who are ethnic Tutsis who were incorporated into the army in 2009, but contend that the peace accord was never fully implemented in their favour.

The neutral force is expected to hold off attacks by M23 and be deployed along the border between DRC and Rwanda, which the UN has accused of backing the M23 rebels, a charge strongly denied by Kigali.

The ministers in the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) were accompanied by their chiefs of general staff and by their intelligence chiefs, who met prior to the ministerial talks.

They have sent a report to Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni, who will president it at the next summit of the ICGLR, which takes place next month.

During talks in Kampala on 7 July, heads of state failed to reach an agreement on the composition of the neutral force, which was decided upon in Addis Ababa on the sidelines of an African Union summit.

The heads of state agreed to meet again in Kampala early in September.