Tanzania President Says Negotiations Only Solution in East Congo

Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete said only negotiations between the Democratic Republic of Congo government and rebels from the M23 group will bring about lasting change to the conflict-torn region.

The United Nations is deploying a so-called “intervention brigade” with a strengthened mandate to attack members of the M23 militia and other armed groups, supporting a peacekeeping mission already stationed in eastern Congo. Tanzania and other Southern African Development Community member states have pledged troops, Kikwete said.

“The deployment of the intervention brigade in eastern Congo is critical in the short term, but we must find a political solution through dialogue,” said Kikwete, according to a statement e-mailed today from his office in the commercial capital of Dar es Salaam. “The talks are very important despite failure to meet the original deadline of three weeks and having entered their sixth month; they should be encouraged to ensure we get a lasting solution.”

In November, M23 rebels seized Goma, a major trading center in eastern Congo. They withdrew 11 days later under pressure from the international community and on the condition Congolese President Joseph Kabila would engage in talks.

The discussions, convened by the Conference on the Great Lakes Region under the chairmanship of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, have stalled. Hostilities flared last week in the region before a visit by United Nations Secretary Ban Ki-Moon.

The group is made up of hundreds of soldiers who deserted the army last April after accusing the government of failing to honor the terms of a 2009 peace deal that incorporated them into the national military. The Congolese government says the M23 violated the agreement by taking up arms rather than talking about their grievances.

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