The current security crisis in eastern DR Congo can only be solved through peaceful means with support of the region, the Speaker of the Congolese Senate has said.
Léon Kengo Wa Dondo was speaking to journalists shortly after meeting President Paul Kagame at Village Urugwiro in Kigali yesterday.
The top senator is in the country with a delegation of six members of the Congolese Senatorial Committee on Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, who also met with their Rwandan counterparts during a separate meeting.
Kengo also said constant dialogue on mutual interests was needed in order to solve regional conflicts, particularly in his country’s war-torn eastern provinces of South and North Kivu, where several armed militias continue to kill, torture and loot.
Speaking to journalists earlier after the opening of the Rwanda-DR Congo senatorial diplomacy session at Parliamentary Buildings, Kengo said: “If we want a solution, we must talk.”
He added: “If I have left DR Congo to come here, it is because I want to talk. And if those who talk have the will to succeed, they want to succeed and I hope we shall succeed in creating conditions for peace and stability in our region.”
The senators from both countries discussed how to complement actions by their respective governments with a view to finding a sustainable solution to the ongoing crisis, which has since driven hundreds of thousands from their homes, with some crossing to Rwanda and Uganda.
At Village Urugwiro, Sen. Kengo told reporters he had discussed bilateral and security-related issues with President Kagame.
He said the meeting was helpful in terms of understanding the nature of both the causes and solutions to DRC’s conflicts.
“The President talked profoundly about his views on the problem and its solutions. I think that he has explained his view that this problem is more political than military and we appreciate his honesty,” the DR Congo Senate head said.
The visit comes months after relations between Rwanda and DR Congo suffered a major setback, after the latter accused Kigali of backing the M23 rebels, one of the armed groups operating in the country’s east–and now one of the main targets of a newly authorised UN Intervention Brigade in the volatile region.
Rwanda has since rejected the allegations–which were also made by a UN experts team in a highly controversial report –as has done Uganda, who are now trying to broker a peace deal between Kinshasa and the M23 rebels.
The talks have since stalled in the wake of the UN’s decision to deploy a military force to attack the rebels, who accused Joseph Kabila’s government of breaching the terms of a peace deal that had ended an earlier rebellion.
Kengo also said his delegation and their Rwandan counterparts had underscored the importance of both countries living at peace with each other so as to promote joint infrastructure projects.
Rwanda and DR Congo are both members of the Community for the Great Lakes Region (CEPGL)–along with Burundi–and both have mutual interests in the rich waters of Lake Kivu.
“Rwandans have skills in the sectors of agriculture, livestock, and services, why can’t we bring our people together so that we take these problems in our own hands and solve them in the best interests of our people and our two countries?” Kengo wondered.
Rwanda is one of the regional countries that recently signed a UN-sponsored framework to help restore peace in DRC.
Kengo’s counterpart, the President of the Rwandan Senate, Dr Jean Damascène Ntawukuliryayo, agreed with the former’s assessment.
“Our engagement should focus on the revitalisation of the CEPGL and on the support of inter-Congolese dialogue for the resolution of all the problems at the regional level,” he said.
He added: “If we don’t heed time, our financial and human resources risk being solely concentrated to resolving recurrent conflicts to the detriment of improving the living conditions of our people, and the future generations will deplore our choices.”
The Congolese delegation arrived in Kigali on Monday for a three-day visit to help promote ties between the two parliaments.
By Eugene Kwibuka & James Karuhanga, The New Times