Congo Peace Talks Continue After Boycott

Posted December 11th, 2012 at 2:20 pm (UTC-5)
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The foreign minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo has called for the “neutralization” of M-23 rebels after a day of contentious peace talks in Kampala.

Delegations from the government and from the rebel forces met Tuesday after the rebels boycotted the talks on Monday.

Afterward, Foreign Minister Raymond Tshibanda called the rebel movement “a negative force that must be eradicated.”

A spokesman for the rebels, Rene Abandi, told Reuters news agency Tuesday he believes the government is preparing for more violence in the troubled North Kivu region.

The negotiations got off to a tense start Sunday, with M23 rebel representative Francois Ruchongoza blaming the country's conflict on poor governance and a lack of what he called “visionary leadership.”

Congolese government officials insisted on being allowed to rebut the charges on Monday. However, when the rebels did not show up for Monday's talks, government officials did not deliver their response, saying they must do so in front of the rebel delegation.

M23 withdrew from the eastern Congolese city of Goma last week, but has threatened to retake the city if the government fails to begin negotiations.

The rebels defeated the Congolese army in a series of battles this year.

A panel of United Nations experts has accused Uganda and Rwanda of supporting the rebel group, something that both countries have denied.

M23 is made up of former rebels who were integrated into the Congolese army in a 2009 peace agreement. The rebels deserted the army earlier this year, complaining of discrimination and poor treatment.

The fighting has displaced more than 100,000 people in Congo's North Kivu province, aggravating an already serious humanitarian situation in the region.