Kenyatta Calls On M23 To Cease Hostilities As Call For War Heard In DR Congo Senate

Former Kenyan President calls for Rebels to lay down their arms, but in the DR Congo senate hears a call for a declaration of war against their neighbour Rwanda.

Former Kenyan president, Uhuru Kenyatta has called on the M23 rebels to stop fighting before any dialogue with the Democratic Republic of Congo authorities.

“Stop fighting, then we will talk. We cannot dialogue then cease hostilities after. Let us stop the war and then dialogue”, Kenyatta, the designated facilitator of the Congolese peace process, said at a press conference in Goma on Nov 15.

The former Kenyan president arrived in the North Kivu chief town following two days in Kinshasa where he consulted the various political and social stakeholders in the Congo crisis.

He arrived in Goma as fierce fighting continued between the Congolese army and the M23 rebels in Kibumba, a locality considered as the main artery to Goma.

Uhuru Kenyatta on arrival in Goma, visited a site for displaced persons in Kanyaruchinya to the north of Goma.

“I saw children, women and old people who have become displaced persons in their own country. Even if we have problems and misunderstandings, let us first stop the war. These children, women and old people are not concerned with the cause of the war. There are thousands and thousands of displaced persons. I have seen them and you have seen them yourselves”, the former Kenyan president declared.

Earlier while in Kinshasa, Uhuru Kenyatta called on the M23 rebels to lay down their arms as the DR Congo government considers the M23 rebels as terrorists and refuses to dialogue with them unless they lay down their arms and withdraw from the zones they occupy.

The M23 rebels on their part say they are willing to dialogue but would rather talk directly with the DR Congo authorities and not through any intermediaries.

Meanwhile, there was general panic in Kanyaruchinya yesterday as heavy weapons were detonated, forcing thousands of people to flee from their homes towards Goma.

Another site for housing displaced people has been created in Don Bosco Ngangi, still in Nyiragongo territory to house newcomers and reduce the crowding in Kanyaruchinya.

In a related development, the DR Congo senate yesterday passed a bill extending the “state of siege” in North Kivu and Ituri provinces, which grants authorities special powers to deal with insecurity. The extension was passed 73 votes to 2.

But, speaking during the debate before adoption of the bill, Senator Jean-Pierre Zagbalafio, said since the state of siege has not succeeded in ending hostilities in eastern Congo, the Congolese legislature should adopt Article 86 of the country’s constitution by declaring war directly against Rwanda, the accused supporters of the M23 rebellion.

“The state of siege concerning armed groups had its time and we voted for a state of siege. The aspect of M23 came into play during the state of siege. The question I am asking Madam Minister of State for Justice is; does the current situation of our country warrant us to continue focusing on Article 85 of the constitution which concerns a state of siege or can we not move on to Article 86 which concerns the declaration of war?” asked the senator.

“I ask because we are now in a situation of war. Article 86 says the President of the Republic can declare war. Is the war mentioned in Article 86 different from the war taking place in the east of the country? If it is not different from the war the head of state can declare stated in Article 86, what are we waiting before passing from Article 85 to 86?” Senator Jean-Pierre Zagbalafio asked.

Peace talks on the situation in the eastern DR Congo are slated to begin on Nov 21 in Nairobi, Kenya, according to an announcement by the East African Community (EAC).

Serious fighting continues between the DR Congo national army, FARDC and the M23 rebels for the control of the town of Kibumba. The M23 rebels, whom the DR Congo government says are supported by Rwanda, are trying to capture the town, which would grant them easy access to Goma, the North Kivu provincial capital.

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Chief Bisong Etahoben

Chief Bisong Etahoben is a Cameroonian investigative journalist and traditional ruler. He writes for international media and has participated in several transnational investigations. Etahoben won the first-ever Cameroon Investigative Journalist Award in 1992. He serves as a member of a number of international investigative journalism professional bodies including the Forum for African Investigative Reporters (FAIR). He is HumAngle's Francophone and Central Africa editor.

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