Daily Nation (Kenya)
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Deputy President William Ruto has waded into the continuing conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo by calling for the international community to ‘deal with negative forces’ behind the war.

At the start of a UN-led conference on peace efforts in the region being held in Luanda, Angola, Mr Ruto warned that there is a possibility these groups could grow links with terror networks and become a bigger security problem to the region.

‘There is therefore an urgent need to decisively deal with such units to achieve and protect peace and stability in the region,’ he told the summit in Luanda.

Mr Ruto, who is representing President Uhuru Kenyatta, is among leaders attending the United Nations Great Lakes Peace Security and Cooperation Summit, the seventh in a series of such conferences but the first ever to take place away from the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa or the UN General Assembly.

The conference is meant to discuss ways of bringing lasting peace to the Great Lakes region, an area in sub-Saharan Africa that mainly covers about 12 countries in east, central and southern Africa, most affected by conflict.

This meeting, officially known as the High-Level Regional Oversight Mechanism for Peace, Security and Cooperation, targets the perennial conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Central Africa Republic and South Sudan.

In the DRC, some of the groups fighting include the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), remnants of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

The UN had called for this meeting to review progress made after previous commitments to support peace programmes in the DRC, Burundi, South Sudan and the Central Africa Republic.

President Joseph Kabila of DRC, Idriss Deby of Chad, Edgar Lungu of Zambia and host leader Eduardo Dos Santos of Angola were some of the heads of state present.

Other leaders included AU Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Stergomena Lawrence Tax, executive secretary of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and Zachary Muburi-Muita, the executive secretary of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region.

‘NEGATIVE FORCES’

But as leaders pored over the challenge, Mr Ruto related the violence merchants to terrorists currently rocking the region and beyond and called for similar cooperation in dealing with them.

‘In the age of ever-rising terrorism, the region should guard against such groups by global terror networks to perpetuate their hate agenda,’ he said.

‘There is need to deal with negative forces in the DRC if sustainable peace in the Great Lakes is to be achieved. We can draw lessons and best practices from each other as we strive to strengthen our democratic institutions and governance systems,’ he argued.

In Luanda, the focus though, was on the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the international community has been trying to stop civil war in the eastern part of the country.

The country recently postponed its general election, initially scheduled for November, creating controversy as some argued President Kabila’s term will have expired.

SPECIAL ENVOY

The UN took the mantle in early 2013 in Addis Ababa, when it brokered an accord meant to bring peace to the DRC.

Known as the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework, the deal was signed by Burundi, Angola, Central Africa Republic, Congo Brazzaville, DRC, South Africa, Rwanda, South Sudan Uganda and Tanzania.

Then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon argued at the time that the deal signalled a comprehensive approach to civil wars that have persisted for more than five decades. He appointed a special envoy for the region in 2014.

Initially excluded from such meetings, Kenya formally requested to play a role in 2013 when Nairobi hosted an extraordinary summit of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR).

At the time, President Kenyatta argued stable countries in the region must be involved in peace efforts because they bear the brunt of conflicts by harbouring refugees and losing out on trade links.

For example, according to the latest data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are 27,485 refugees from DRC living in Kenya. Most of them, 17, 651, live in Nairobi, 9549 are hosted at the Kakuma refugee camp in Turkana County and another 150 are in Dadaab.

INTERNATIONAL MISTRUST

The ICGLR meeting then agreed to formally ask the UN to grant Kenya and Sudan a seat.

The UN process is meant to bring 12 countries that form part of the Great Lakes region to a discussion on how instability, armed conflict, humanitarian crises, natural resources and other related issued can be handled.

Some of the issues the meeting is supposed to address are the continuing internal mistrust between countries that form the ICGLR.

For example, DRC has previously accused Rwanda and Uganda of fuelling the conflict in eastern Congo. But Kampala and Kigali deny this charge.

Instead, they have called for a stronger DRC army and the revamping of the UN mission in DRC (Monusco), which they argue has allowed rebels to thrive.

Both Presidents Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame of Rwanda did not attend the meeting but sent representatives.

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