Great Lakes nations adopt joint military plan

Burundi, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Uganda have adopted a joint military strategy to fight rebel groups operating in the war-scarred Great Lakes region, officials said on Thursday.

 

Military commanders from the four countries said those operations would be planned and carried out in conjunction with the country where the rebels are based, according to a statement released after their meeting in the Burundian capital, Bujumbura.

 

The DRC agreed to immediately step up a military offensive against rebels in the country, notably in the remote eastern region, which is home to several insurgent groups.

 

“Planned actions, which may include trans-border operations, will prop up [the DRC’s] immediate steps,” said the statement.

 

“The recommendations that you have adopted constitute a solid base for a permanent solution for insecurity in the region,” said Germain Niyoyankana, Burundi’s Defence Minister.

 

Burundi is still struggling to implement a ceasefire deal reached with its last active rebels, the National Liberation Forces, the only of its seven rebel groups to have stayed out of a peace process that saw the election of a power-sharing government in 2005.

 

Rwanda and the DRC are yet to resolve the issue of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda rebels hiding in eastern DRC and accused by Kigali of having actively participated in the country’s 1994 genocide.

 

Their presence has damaged relations between Kigali and Kinshasa and is considered by the international community as one of the main obstacles to a lasting peace in the Great Lakes region.

 

Since the middle of last year, Uganda has been engaged in talks to end two decades of fighting with the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) in the north of the country.

 

Some of the LRA leaders have in the past been hiding in Garamba Forest east of the DRC and are currently based in a forest clearing on Uganda’s border with the DRC.

 

“It is clear, [DRC], Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi will not remain suspicious [of each other] forever,” said Niyoyankana.

 

Africa’s Great Lakes region has been wracked by violence since the early 1990s, with the civil war that began in Burundi in 1993; the Rwandan genocide in 1994; and the regional war that raged in the DRC between 1998 and 2003.—AFP

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