By Henry D Gombya
The M23 Movement fighting the government of President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republican of Congo (DRC) has described as ‘ridiculous and cowardly’ a statement attributed to a DRC government spokesman, M Lambert Mende Omalanga that the Movement was negotiating leaving its struggle to join the Kabila regime. In a statement issued yesterday, a copy of which was sent to The London Evening Post, the M23 denied it had made any contact to discuss joining the Kabila army. In press reports carried by Reuters on 28 February this year, M Mende was quoted as saying that a faction of the M23 led by its Chief of Staff, Gen Sultani Makenga had indicated its willingness to abandon to renounce the rebellion and join the DRC armed forces.
In the Reuters report, M Omalanga was quoted as having claimed to have received offers from Gen Makenga saying his group wanted to abandon the rebellion and integrate in the government army. The M213 Movement vigorously denied any of its members had been in touch with the Kabila government. “The March 23 Movement has never made any such contact with the Congolese government outside the framework and discussions currently underway in Kampala under the direction of the Mediator and Facilitator accredited,” the statement read. It went on to add: “Any statement contrary to this is ridiculous and cowardly.”
The statement further says that the M23 Movement ‘knows of no faction within itself’ as suggested by statements allegedly made by M Omalanga. It claimed it had exercised its authority regarding cases of indiscipline by some of its members who were ‘punished regardless of their authority and responsibility. Last month, the Movement fired its president Jean-Marie Runiga and some of its senior members after finding them ‘guilty of high treason’. “Our organization exercised its authority regarding cases of indiscipline by some of its members who were punished regardless of their levels of authority and responsibility. The Minister of Communication of the Government of the DRC should rather, by this act, draw lessons from the high sense of responsibility and respect for the fundamental principles guiding an organization worthy of its name. Mr Lambert Mende should also note that the measure of a statesman is, above all, the ability to act courageously and responsibly in the conduct of public affairs.”
Denying that there was any semblance of truth in what the Minister was allegedly quoted as saying, the M23 Movement’s press release said Mendes’s assertions were ‘unfounded’ and could be the signal for ‘a return to the traditional delaying tactics of the Kinshasa government. It said these tactics were not new to the people of the DRC and that their whole purpose was to ‘sow confusion, maintain cacophony and divert the public’ attention from its (the DRC government) inability to address the real problems of governing a country’. “To avoid debate on core issues of general interest and instead focus on small opportunistic arrangements remains the perfect way to maintain and nurture in our country, the causes of conflicts thus making them endless and cyclical,” the statement read. It added: “Our Movement advocates for a break from this approach and condemns vehemently this attitude of avoiding debate on core issues and compromising the smooth running of the Kampala dialogue as desired and initiated by the Heads of State and Governments member countries of the ICGLR.”
Concerning rumours that tomorrow (Friday 15th March) there will be the signing of a document between the warring factions, the M23 made it clear this was untrue. “…our Movement expressly states that it is not informed by the Facilitator or by the Kinshasa government about anything in this regard. If this document exists, it should be negotiated between the Movement and the Government of the DRC in the presence of the Facilitation. It is therefore inappropriate to claim that our Movement will sign an agreement that has not been negotiated.”
It pledged its commitment to work for the return of peace in the DRC promising to continue with the Kampala dialogue ‘until all the items on its agenda are exhausted’. M23 called on the DRC government to return to the negotiating table, if only to ‘take a responsible attitude’ that would enable the continuation of the talks that the Movement sees as ‘the only guarantee of a genuine and lasting peace upon which depends the survival of future generations’.