Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has blamed the prolonged conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo—DRC on what he called indifference of the country’s leadership.
Museveni says efforts by the African Union and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region–ICGLR were ignored in favour of a euro-centric foreign policy.
Museveni’s comments came as M23 rebels announced an end to the rebellion amidst pressure from DRC government forces who have been pounding the rebel positions for the last one week.
M23 leader Bertrand Bisimwa issued a statement declaring an end to fighting preferring to use political means to achieve their goals. Earlier in the day, the Congolese government spokesperson Lambert Mende had declared victory against the rebels after a week of fighting.
In South Africa at a special Summit on the DRC, President Museveni stated that this indifference has caused innumerable suffering to innocent civilians especially women and children, some of whom have been denied citizenship.
He named the Banyamulenge, an ethnic Tutsi group whose forefathers migrated from Rwanda. It is this group that forms the bulk of the M23 rebels who have been fighting the government in DRC since April 2012.
He castigated the recent fighting which has forced 155,000 people to flee to Uganda. He called on the warring parties to harness the similarities in the region like that of culture and the dialects to forge peace instead of enmity.
President Museveni told the Joint summit that the Southern African Development Community—SADC, AU and ICGLR have got the potential to solve the problem adding that Uganda is ready to play her part.
The Joint Summit co-chaired by Malawian President Joyce Banda, who is chairperson of SADC, heard President Museveni outlining the problems that have dodged Congo since 1961. He cited the persistent lack of a legitimately elected government since 1961, poor internal management including an errant army, harboring enemies of neighboring countries like Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi and Angola and fermenting inter-ethnic tensions and hatred by pitting one group against another among others.
He stated that the problem of enemies from without and ethnic conflicts from within the DRC should be immediately addressed adding that through the regional efforts, an intervention brigade has been formed and more rebels of the M23 are seeking integration into the army.
South African President Jacob Zuma was hopeful that the conference would aim at freeing the people of these sister regions from the scourges of unemployment, poverty and underdevelopment.
President Banda added that the joint summit will deepen regional integration, improve infrastructure as well as harnessing the immense opportunities of development the region.