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Nairobi peace talks by Congo warring parties hit deadlock

Thursday December 11 2008

Gen Nkunda. Photo/FILE

Gen Nkunda. Photo/FILE 


The face-to-face talks between Congo rebels and the Government of Joseph Kabila have hit a deadlock.

Although the peace talks had progressed well since they started at the United Nations headquarters in Gigiri, Nairobi on Monday, the mediators were forced to make an urgent resolution after encountering difficulties.

They said the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) representatives had been a stumbling block since they were demanding to negotiate on behalf of the entire country instead of the Eastern DRC.

“This is an unacceptable as their organisation does not represent the whole of DRC,” United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region, Mr Olusegun Obasanjo, told a press conference on Wednesday night.

Mr Obasanjo, who is a former Nigerian President, is the chairman of the talks. He is being assisted by former Tanzanian President Mr Benjamin Mkapa.

Mr Mkapa was not present during the press conference, which was convened at 9.30pm. Mr Obasanjo was accompanied by Gen Lazarus Sumbeiyo.

CNDP was supposed to negotiate directly with the Congolese government on the modalities of ending fighting in the country’s mineral-rich Eastern region.

The fighting has been going on since August 28 where CNDP led by Gen Laurent Nkunda launched attacks on the government troops.

According to the United Nation, at least 250,000 to a half million have been displaced and affected by the war, which has also inflicted heavy losses on the Congolese army.

In the talks, the CNDP, which had sent five representatives had been expected to focus on the conflict in the Eastern region and the humanitarian emergency.

“When we ask them questions, we get baffling answers as they say they want to negotiate on behalf of the whole DRC. So how do we move on? It is only CNDP who have to move in the right direction for us to continue with the talks,” Mr Obasanjo said while answering questions from journalists.

At the same time, the CNDP, the chief mediator added “keeps on giving reference to the powers in North Kivu”.

“It is like they have no powers to take decisions,” he said

In his written statement, which he first read to the press, the chairman of the talks said:

“Without prejudice to the rights and wrongs of this demand, it goes, in my opinion and that of my co-facilitator, President Mkapa, beyond the mandate given to us by the Great Lakes Region, the African Union (AU) and the United Nations, at the Nairobi Regional Summit on 7 November.”

However, he said the Government side led by President Kabila’s International and Regional Cooperation minister, Mr Raymond Tshibanda, had been flexible throughout the talks.

Mr Obasanjo said he will send the CNDP delegation back to Gen Nkunda. He wants Gen Nkunda to send him the right people “who should have their aims and objectives right.”

“The CNDP delegations seem not to be clear about their priorities,” he said.

The CNDP delegation, which is led by Mr Serge Kambasu Ngere, the deputy executive secretary for the CNDP went back home yesterday.
But Mr Obasanjo insisted that the talks have not collapsed saying they will remain engaged in the dialogue.