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Thu Nov 27 20:17:33 SAST 2014

DRC's Kabila pledges national unity talks for early 2013

Sapa-AFP | 02 January, 2013 08:00
Democratic Republic of Congo's President Joseph Kabila. File photo.
Image by: STRINGER / REUTERS

Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila made a New Year's pledge to jumpstart national unity talks, calling them a "condition of our survival" amid a conflict involving several rebel groups in the east.

He spoke after the UN Security Council imposed sanctions on two rebel groups active in the mineral-rich North Kivu province, and as its governor called for international aid for the victims of the long-running unrest.

"The war in which we're involved needs to be an opportunity for us to further unite despite the diversity of our tribes, of our religious beliefs and of our political views," Kabila said Monday evening during a New Year speech.

"National unity remains the condition of our survival and the most effective shield against any attempt to balkanise and destroy" the country, he said.

"In this context, I confirm the forming of a framework starting early 2013 for talks between all the country's major forces."

The main opposition party, Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), which had rejected as fraudulent the 2011 general polls that returned Kabila and his coalition to power, said there was "no question" that it would back Kabila.

"National unity was destroyed by him, and he can't simultaneously destroy and fix," UDPS official Bruno Mavungu told AFP.

The conflict in the troubled east has forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes since the March 23 rebel movement was formed in April and launched a military offensive against the government.

North Kivu governor Julien Paluku called on the international community for help, asking aid organisations for funding for the conflict's victims in a letter obtained by AFP Tuesday.

He also called on the United Nations, which has 18,000 peacekeepers in the country, to "act rather than just observe" and to prepare with him a "quick plan for managing the humanitarian crisis".

On Monday, the UN Security Council slapped sanctions on the M23 as well as another group -- the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) -- also active in North Kivu and accused of serious abuses.

The council committee imposed an arms embargo on the groups, as well as a travel ban and asset freeze on two key M23 figures.

M23 is composed of former rebels who had been integrated into the regular Congolese military as part of a 2009 peace deal before mutinying. They accuse Kinshasa of failing to fully implement the agreement.

UN experts accuse neighbours Rwanda and Uganda of backing the M23 rebels, who have been fighting DR Congo troops since May. Both countries deny the claims.

Kigali accuses Kinshasa of working hand in glove with the FDLR's Rwandan Hutu rebels to destabilise President Paul Kagame's regime.

In November, the M23 rebels occupied the key eastern mining hub of Goma for nearly two weeks before withdrawing as part of a ceasefire brokered by East African nations.

They agreed to talks with the government in Kampala, which began in December and are to resume this week following the holidays.

Late December, dozens of members of the feared Mai Mai militia of South Kivu said they deserve to be included in the talks and that the government should pay attention to the other armed groups that signed the 2009 accord.

Mai Mai official Longangi Kanyere said that if this demand were met, many other armed groups in South Kivu, as well as in North Kivu, "would spare no effort to help the Congolese government bring a sustainable peace to the eastern DRC."

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