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The East African : November 3rd 2013
6 RETURN OF PEACE Tough choices await M23 rebels as govt forces triumph The fighte≥s must now accept a deal they have ≥epeatedly ≥ejected, which sac≥ifices thei≥ leade≥s By GAAKI KIGAMBO Special Correspondent the hills last week by the much improved Congolese army and the United Nations’ special fighting force, are confronted with tough choices. For the M23 group to sal- T vage any relevance, they must now accept a deal they have repeatedly rejected at the largely ineffectual talks in Kampala that began in De- he M23 rebels, who were forced to cut and run for cember 2012. But this would also require them to abandon some of their military and political officials, who President Joseph Kabila’s government has insisted will not receive amnesty because of war-related charges against them. The list of 100 top ranking M23 officials was published by Kinshasa in September. The government’s posi- tion is strongly backed by the UN. In statement on October 21, Mary Robinson, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Re- M23 rebels withdraw from Goma after regional leaders brokered a deal last year. Picture: File gion, told the Security Council how “the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the 23 March Movement (M23) armed group need to reach a peace accord based on the principles of sustainability and accountability, and must not allow amnesty for the perpetrators of war crimes, or crimes against humanity.” To sacrifice any one of their ranks is a call the rebels are unlikely to make, as it would amount to self-annihilation. Yet, the alternatives before them are no easier. They would either have to take a last stand near the Rwandan border where they have retreated to against a force they have not been able to hold back since August, or morph into one of the many other militias that roam eastern Congo and wait for another encounter with it. There are reports that Uganda, which was selected to mediate the talks, is pushing the UN to back down from its insistence on selected amnesty but there is no official word on this. According to Lt Col Paddy Ankunda, an advisor to Uganda’s Defence Minister Dr Crispus Kiyonga, the talks’ chief facilitator, over 95 per cent of the issues under amnesty have been agreed upon and the technical committee is ironing out the remaining five per cent. He did not give any details. Political deal “Defeat is not the most im- portant thing. What is important is compromise and agreement. There cannot be a military solution to a political problem. Both parties need to realise that lasting solutions are only anchored in political incentives that require dialogue, compromise, and agreement,” Lt Col Ankunda told The EastAfrican. Although Kinshasa’s mili- tary gains have eroded any incentives for either the government or the rebels to fully engage in a political process, a governance expert who has consulted for the talks says each side would be foolhardy to ignore the need to reach a political agreement. “There is still legitimacy to fight for and that for the rebels should be important. They need to see how they improve the offer they have been presented because they stand to gain in a peace deal if politically they are strong on the ground,” he said. To secure their temporary military success, the UN and Kinshasa need to quickly reestablish internal order, introduce good governance in both North and South Kivu, resolve land conflicts, deter ethnically motivated discrimination, and return refugees home — none of which is easy given the little footprint the state commands in this region; and the reason it has become a haven for rebel groups. Even tougher is the expectation upon the Congolese army and most particularly the UN’s intervention force to move with the same urgency and energy on other The EastAfrican NEWS NOVEMBER 2-8,2013 GAME PLAN M23 rebels mutinied in April 2012 citing dissatisfaction with the implementation of an earlier agreement in 2009. They quickly took large swathes of territory including Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu and major commercial centre in eastern DR Congo, which they overran and briefly held in November, at nearly the same speed as it took them to lose it in just under a week. DEFEAT: Sources say the rebels’ surprise defeat owes to better organisation on the part of the Congolese army, much of which is credited to the UN intervention force, and internal squabbles within M23’s ranks. armed groups, particularly the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, which comprises remnants of perpetrators of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The FDLR, which Kigali insists poses an existential threat, has established close networks with the Congolese army, according to several reports, including some by the UN. Kenya passes ≥ep≥essive media law TURN FROM PAGE 3 controlled tribunal. One of the key concerns is that the fines will be treated as debt due to the aggrieved, which gives freedom to those who sue the media to attach their assets and bank accounts. In the new Bill, the Complaints Commis- sion has been moved from the self-regulating Media Council of Kenya to the new Authority controlled by the government in the form of a Tribunal expected to handle media and multimedia issues. Article 102(E) gives the Tribunal powers to “make any directive and declaration on freedom of expression,” which is basically an open cheque to redefine freedom of the press. Also, the Tribunal can recommend that a journalist be removed from the register, which makes it easy to kill the very livelihood of journalists. Meanwhile, Article 102(I) provides that the chairman or any officer of the Tribunal cannot be sued in a civil court for actions perpetrated while discharging his duties, effectively putting the holder of the office above the law. The World Press Freedom Index 2013, pub- lished by Reporters Without Borders, described East Africa as a region of censorship, singling out Eritrea, Djibouti, Sudan and Ethiopia as places where newspapers are arbitrarily shut down, journalists detained or jailed for breaking anti-terrorism laws or for criticising the government. Two weeks ago, Tanzania proposed amend- ments to its media laws that will see journalists face harsh punishment in the course of discharging their duties, including severe penalties for professional mistakes. Journalists will be liable to five-year jail terms and fines of upto Tsh5 million ($3,125). Rwanda in March enacted a new press law and a Freedom of Information Act that sought to improve the working condition of journalists, but journalists in Rwanda have in the past been jailed for criminal libel, alleged national security offences and vague genociderelated laws. In Uganda, the government enacted a law that allows the state to shut down newspapers and jail journalists for articles deemed to undermine national security. As a result, the safety and security of journalists in Uganda remains uncertain, with many subjected to arbitrary arrests and torture, intimidation and harassment.
October 26th 2013
November 10th 2013