US, UN Bless DRC – M23 Talks Despite Sanctions

Jean Marie Runiga is among the M23 Leaders who have been sanctioned
Jean Marie Runiga is among the M23 Leaders who have been sanctioned by the UN

The US Government and the UN Security Council have in what appears to be a relaxation of attitude towards M23 given a green light to the peace talks between the former and the DRC Government currently ongoing in Uganda’s capital Kampala.

This move comes despite sanctions imposed against some of the rebel leaders by both the UN and US.

Dr. Crispus Kiyonga, Uganda’s minister of defence who is also the chief facilitator of the talks said that the UN sanctions against the M23 rebel leaders would not in any way have an affect the ongoing dialogue between the warring parties.

He added that the sanctions took many by surprise because no one expected them Saying his team contacted the office of the UN secretary general because they believed the UN boss supports the dialogue. The US government which moved the motion to sanction the rebels was also contacted.

Last week, the UN Security Council announced an arms ban against the M23 rebels and the Rwandan rebel force FDLR operating in the war-torn eastern DR Congo.

A travel ban and asset freeze was also slapped on M23 rebel officials Jean-Marie Runiga and Lt. Col. Eric Badege  by the Security Council committee tasked with monitoring sanctions on DRC.

Runiga is a key figure in the M23 rebel group’s hierarchy and is a central in the ongoing dialogue in Kampala mediated by the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR). Uganda is currently holding the chairmanship of the rotational presidency.

M23, named after a 2009 peace deal that saw a previous rebellion integrated into the army, initially took up arms saying the government had failed to respect the terms of the agreement.

The group later expanded its demands and threatened to march across the vast Central African nation and topple the government of President Joseph Kabila.

M23 leaders announced a unilateral ceasefire on Tuesday ahead of a second round of peace talks with the government in Kampala, boosting hopes of a negotiated end to the uprising.

A U.N. experts’ report last year said Rwanda and Uganda had given support to the M23 rebels whose renewed conflict led to the seizure of Goma City.

Uganda and Rwanda however strongly rejected the report’s findings and Kigali has in turn accused Congo of failing to wipe out Rwandan rebels operating in its territory.

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