DRC government, M23 rebels agree peace talks agenda

DR-Congo M23 rebel member/FILE

DR-Congo M23 rebel member/FILE

KAMPALA, Jan 16 – The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo and M23 rebels on Wednesday agreed on an agenda for peace talks being held in Kampala, the mediator said.

“The parties adopted and signed the agenda,” a statement from the office of Ugandan Defence Minister Crispus Kiyonga said.

The talks will focus on four areas: reviewing a previous 2009 peace agreement, security matters, social, political and economic issues and how to implement any agreement to be signed, the statement said.

“The parties will henceforth begin negotiations of the substantive issues of the agenda,” the statement said.

The rebels — army mutineers largely from the ethnic Tutsi community — staged a lightning advance in November through the DR Congo’s mineral-rich and chronically unstable east, raising fears of a widespread conflict.

Uganda is hosting the talks despite accusations that it — as well as neighbouring Rwanda — has backed the fighters, claims which both countries have strongly denied.

Although the M23 rebels were persuaded to withdraw from the key eastern city of Goma after a 12-day occupation, they still control large areas of territory just outside the strategic mining hub.

Negotiations started in mid-December but have progressed slowly, with the rebels issuing a raft of demands ranging from calls for a ceasefire to demands for major political reform in the war-weary region.

The negotiations are the latest of several bids to end a long-running conflict that has forced hundreds of thousands of people in eastern DR Congo from their homes.

DR Congo’s east, which borders Rwanda and Uganda, was the cradle of back-to-back wars that drew in much of the region from 1996 to 2003. They were fought largely over its vast wealth of gold, coltan and cassiterite, key components in electronic goods.

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