Re­gional body has done well fight­ing armed groups and Ki­gali knows it

Rwanda an­nounced re­cently that it could with­draw from the In­ter­na­tional Con­fer­ence of the Great Lakes Re­gion over its fail­ure to stop in­se­cu­rity. FRED OLUOCH spoke with ICGLR’S ex­ec­u­tive sec­re­tary about mem­bers’ con­cerns

The East African - - OUTLOOK -

Has the ICGLR Sec­re­tariat re­ceived com­mu­ni­ca­tion from Rwanda about its in­ten­tion to with­draw?

We have not re­ceived any of­fi­cial com­mu­ni­ca­tion from Rwanda. The pro­ce­dures of with­drawal are clear. Ac­cord­ing to Ar­ti­cle 35, a mem­ber state that has rat­i­fied the ICGLR pact may with­draw from it af­ter 10 years from the date it en­tered into force in re­la­tion to the mem­ber state, by giv­ing writ­ten no­ti­fi­ca­tion to the de­posi­tary. With­drawal shall take ef­fect one year from the date of re­ceipt by the de­posi­tary.

Rwanda’s State Min­is­ter for For­eign Af­fairs Olivier Nduhun­girehe said that ICGLR has failed to achieve its man­date of pro­mot­ing se­cu­rity...

That state­ment does not re­flect the re­al­ity. The ICGLR was started 12 years ago in De­cem­ber 2006 when the pact was signed in Nairobi. The re­gion was then in tur­moil, with to­tal anarchy ex­pe­ri­enced in east­ern DRC af­ter the Demo­cratic Forces for the Lib­er­a­tion of Rwanda (FDLR) rebel group set­tled in the two Kivu prov­inces. Neg­a­tive forces created an at­mos­phere of sus­pi­cion, mistrust and an­i­mos­ity be­tween the DRC and Rwanda for many years — a sit­u­a­tion that was even­tu­ally re­solved af­ter many ICGLR Heads of State Sum­mits.

The Kam­pala Sum­mit in 2012 pro­posed the cre­ation of the In­ter­ven­tion Force Brigade which has worked with the DRC army to ren­der FDLR an in­signif­i­cant force. The heads of state sum­mits have helped to boost bi­lat­eral re­la­tions be­tween coun­tries. The ICGLR con­tin­ues to con­vene min­is­te­rial, Chiefs of De­fence Staff and Chiefs of In­tel­li­gence meet­ings reg­u­larly where se­cu­rity mat­ters are dis­cussed. The Rwan­dan Min­is­ter is en­ti­tled to his opin­ion, but the truth is, ICGLR has achieved a great deal.

Rwanda is par­tic­u­larly un­happy that FDLR still op­er­ates in east­ern Congo de­spite prom­ises to eject it.

Th­ese is­sues have been dis­cussed at var­i­ous fora of the ICGLR or­gans, in­clud­ing the Heads of State and gov­ern­ment Sum­mits, since 2015. All the de­ci­sions taken by the ICGLR have had the bless­ings of Rwanda. Rwanda has con­sis­tently and ac­tively par­tic­i­pated in all the sum­mits and is there­fore well briefed on the FDLR sit­u­a­tion. The ICGLR con­tin­ues to pre­pare the dis­armed FDLR in tran­sit camps in the DRC to be repa­tri­ated to Rwanda.

The ICGLR estab­lished the Ex­panded Joint Ver­i­fi­ca­tion Mech­a­nism in which Rwanda is rep­re­sent- ed. Th­ese mil­i­tary ex­perts reg­u­larly con­duct on-the-spot ver­i­fi­ca­tions and sub­mit their re­ports to the ICGLR Com­mit­tee of Min­is­ters of De­fence through the chiefs of de­fence staff. This has created con­fi­dence among the mem­ber states. The ICGLR also estab­lished a Joint In­tel­li­gence Fu­sion Cen­tre, where in­tel­li­gence on neg­a­tive forces is shared. Again, Rwanda is rep­re­sented in this spe­cialised or­gan.

Still, the Al­lied Demo­cratic Forces and M23 con­tinue to op­er­ate in east­ern Congo with ICGLR ap­pear­ing help­less...

Yes, the ADF still op­er­ates in the Ruwen­zori area in Beni ter­ri­tory. It has mor­phed into a ter­ror­ist group. We have con­sis­tently con­demned their ter­ror­ist acts against civil­ians and the UN troops. The ICGLR estab­lished a joint fol­low-up mech­a­nism com­pris­ing four mem­ber states — DRC, Kenya, Tan­za­nia and Uganda — to cur­tail the re­cruit­ment of the ADF.

On M23, the ICGLR suc­cess­fully me­di­ated the con­flict to con­clu­sion lead­ing to the Nairobi Dec­la­ra­tion in De­cem­ber 2013. Although some ex-com­bat­ants are still can­toned in Rwanda and Uganda, the ICGLR Zachary Muburi-muita was born in 1957

Ed­u­ca­tion:

Univer­sity of Nairobi, the Univer­sity of Khar­toum and Ox­ford Univer­sity.

Work ex­pe­ri­ence:

He started work­ing in 1982 at the Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs where he headed var­i­ous de­part­ments. He has also co-or­di­nated var­i­ous ini­tia­tives of the East African Com­mu­nity, the Com­mon Mar­ket for East­ern and Southern Africa and the In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Au­thor­ity for Development. 2006: Served as Kenya’s per­ma­nent rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the United Na­tions in New York. 2010: Vice-pres­i­dent of the Bureau of the As­sem­bly of States Par­ties to the Rome Statute of the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court Jan­uary 2010: Pres­i­dent of the United Na­tions High-level Com­mit­tee on South-south Co­op­er­a­tion.June 2016: Ap­pointed ICGLR Ex­ec­u­tive Sec­re­tary. con­tin­ues to fa­cil­i­tate their repa­tri­a­tion to the DRC. The last repa­tri­a­tion of 13 from Uganda took place in July this year. How­ever, fight­ing an estab­lished rebel force that has mas­tered that rugged and forested ter­rain can­not be a one-day event. The M23 pres­ence in the east­ern DRC is still un­der ver­i­fi­ca­tion.

With elec­tions in DRC ex­pected in De­cem­ber, has the ICGLR put in place mea­sures to en­sure that armed groups do not in­ter­fere?

The ICGLR plays a sup­port­ive role in the Ad­dis Ababa Frame­work of Co-op­er­a­tion for east­ern DRC and the Great Lakes Re­gion as a guar­an­tor. To­gether with SADC, we are sup­port­ing the con­certed ef­forts by the DRC gov­ern­ment and peace­keep­ers to pacify east­ern Congo in readi­ness for the elec­tions. I need to em­pha­sise that we are not an en­force­ment mech­a­nism but a po­lit­i­cal or­gan­i­sa­tion of mem­ber states with a spe­cific man­date.

There have been con­cerns that the ICGLR con­cen­trates on the DRC, ne­glect­ing the se­cu­rity chal­lenges in other mem­bers states ?

There is no ev­i­dence to sup­port th­ese claims. The per­cep­tion prob­a­bly em­anates from the fact that the ICGLR has held many ex­tra­or­di­nary sum­mits to pacify the east­ern DRC which was the epi­cen­tre of con­flict in the re­gion for a long time. DRC shares bor­ders with eight mem­ber states and its sta­bil­ity is cru­cial for the re­gion.

The ICGLR is also present in the Cen­tral African Republic as part of the African Union rec­on­cil­i­a­tion ef­forts, and sup­ports the Igad-led peace process in South Su­dan. The or­gan­i­sa­tion is also de­vel­op­ing a counter ter­ror­ism strat­egy that will en­tail more col­lab­o­ra­tion with mem­ber states. The dis­ar­ma­ment and fight against the pro­lif­er­a­tion of small arms and light weapons in Kenya, Uganda and South Su­dan is an­other ex­am­ple of ICGLR’S in­volve­ment with its mem­bers.

We have a num­ber of projects in dif­fer­ent mem­ber states, but, be­cause they are not con­flict-ori­ented, they can eas­ily be over­looked. For ex­am­ple, we have estab­lished the Levy Mwanawasa Re­gional Cen­tre based in Lusaka, a think tank that pro­vides ev­i­dence-based solutions on ma­jor peace and se­cu­rity chal­lenges in the re­gion.

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