Congo police secure rebel territory, ‘national dialogue’ delayed

Agence France-Presse
The country postponed a 'national dialogue' aimed at ending its political, social and military crises

CONFLICT ZONE. A woman carrying a child on her shoulders walks past a Military of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) tank in Goma on August 31, 2013. AFP /Carl de Souza

KINSHASA, DR Congo – Police in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo moved in Tuesday, September 3, to secure territory recently reclaimed from the M23 rebels, as the country postponed a “national dialogue” aimed at ending its political, social and military crises.

The governor of the mineral-rich but chronically unstable province of North Kivu said police had been sent into areas recently abandoned by the rebels in the face of a week-long offensive by the military and a new United Nations combat force.

Governor Julien Paluku told AFP police had mostly reestablished their control over a territory known as Nyiragongo, located north of Goma, the provincial capital and the hub around which most of the 16-month conflict has revolved.

“The police have redeployed since yesterday in Nyiragongo, but not over the whole territory because there is still a small part that hasn’t been cleared, where we still need to mop up,” Paluku said.

“Police units will be deployed like this every time the military goes to reoccupy a place. They will be deployed to lock down the area.”

The M23 was launched by Tutsi soldiers who mutinied from the army in April 2012 and turned their guns on their former comrades.

The rebels, who seized Goma for 12 days in November before withdrawing to the surrounding hills under international pressure, retreated this week to around 30 kilometers (20 miles) north of the city in the face of the army’s new UN-backed offensive.

As the police moved in to re-secure the ex-rebel territory, the Congolese government postponed by three days a “national dialogue” that had been scheduled to open Wednesday, September 4.

The nationwide talks, which are supposed to involve the country’s political parties and civil society groups, will now open on Saturday in three major cities, said an official from the secretariat charged with organizing the process.

“The opening of the talks has been pushed back to September 7 because of the head of state’s agenda,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The official said President Joseph Kabila had to open a meeting of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region.

Kabila is due to attend a summit of the 11-country regional bloc Thursday in Uganda, where UN special envoy Mary Robinson is expected to push leaders to revive their moribund effort to restore peace to eastern DR Congo.

Kabila has promised the national dialogue in an effort to tackle the massive central African country’s deep poverty, rampant corruption and widespread violence and rebellions.

But most opposition parties have said they will boycott the talks. –

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