Center for Intelligence Sharing Opens in DR Congo

Posted June 13th, 2012 at 8:00 pm (UTC-5)
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Intelligence chiefs from 11 countries of Africa's Great Lake region opened a new Center for Intelligence Sharing Wednesday in the eastern Congolese city of Goma.

The executive secretary of the new center and a former minister in the Democratic Republic of Congo government, Professor Ntumba Luaba, said they chose Goma because there are a number of armed groups operating near the town, including the M23 rebels and the Lords Resistance Army.

The U.S. Ambassador to the DRC, James Entwistle, visited Goma and told VOA the United States welcomes the initiative.

“I think it's extremely encouraging, and the effort has the full support of the U.S. I think as we try to find solutions to difficult regional problems, the first step has to be the countries of the region themselves taking steps to co-ordinate among themselves, so we think it's a very good idea.”

The opening comes at a time of heightened tensions between the DRC and Rwanda. The DRC government claims a mutiny among Congolese army units in April was planned in Rwanda and that the M23 rebel group is being supported from Kigali.

Ambassador Entwistle commented on those claims, saying that “if it were to turn out that one Great Lakes country was interfering in another, that would be very regrettable.”

Later this month, the U.N. Security Council is scheduled to discuss the renewal of the MONUSCO mandate in the Congo. When asked if he anticipates a change of that mandate, Ambassador Entwistle said that, in his opinion, the U.N. mission will be needed for some time and its mandate is “just about where it should be in terms of tasks.”

He added that “Washington thinks that, in general, MONUSCO, the United Nations military mission in Congo, is doing an excellent job, not just against the M23, but in a number of other conflicts around the country, and is doing its best to protect the civilian population.”

The M23 is an offshoot of the CNDP (National Congress for the Defense of the People) rebel group led by ex-soldier Bosco Ntaganda. His close ally, Sultani Makenga, heads the M23 rebels.

Pro-Ntaganda soldiers began deserting the army in April, complaining of low pay and difficult conditions in the military.

Ntaganda, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes, is in hiding.