/ 30 October 2013

Zuma snubs M23’s pleas, pledges commitment to DRC govt

Presidents Jacob Zuma and Joseph Kabila.
Presidents Jacob Zuma and Joseph Kabila.

Ignoring the pleas of the M23 rebels, President Jacob Zuma pledged South Africa's solidarity with the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Tuesday.

"We will together ensure that our women and children, be they in Limpopo, South Africa or in Goma, DRC, are free from the scourge of poverty, war, ignorance and disease," he said in a speech prepared for delivery at a Congolese state banquet.

Zuma's statement follows the DRC's M23 rebels request with the South African president to pull his troops out of the DRC if he's interested in helping bring peace in the eastern part of that country. 

There was an unbreakable bond of fraternity between South Africa and the DRC dating back to the countries' respective struggles for liberation, Zuma said.

"We are therefore here to thank you, Your Excellency [Kabila], and the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo, for your unwavering solidarity and contribution … In turn, we tried to use the freedom you had helped us to win, to make our modest contribution in making Africa a better continent in a better world."

Zuma was in Kinshasa for a state visit, hosted by President Joseph Kabila Kabange.

SA's commitment to the DRC
Zuma said hundreds of South African soldiers, under the flag of Monusco, or the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission, in the DRC, stationed to protect civilians from rebel forces in the country were a testament to South Africa's commitment to the DRC.

In August, Zuma informed Parliament that 1 345 soldiers had been deployed as part of the United Nations Force Intervention Brigade in the eastern DRC.

The deployment followed the passing of a UN resolution in March authorising a force to intervene in cases where people's lives and property were threatened.

He praised the Congolese government for the national consultations it held earlier this month.

"This is the only path towards genuine national reconciliation amongst the Congolese people, and the reconstruction and development of the DRC's socio-economic infrastructure."

Zuma arrived in Kinshasa on Monday just days after the collapse of peace talks that were held in Uganda's capital Kampala and fresh fighting erupted in several areas of the North Kivu province. Kabila's government refused to sign the peace deal unless M23 removed its deputy negotiation chief, Roger Lumbala, a former MP. The M23's refusal to give in resulted in the government delegation staging a walk-out.

"We're requesting Zuma to speak to Kabila to stop the fatalities," said M23 spokesperson Lawrence Kingston in an interview with the Mail & Guardian on Tuesday.

"South Africa should stop sending military to Congo. He's got to help the Congolese people live side by side in peace instead of helping Kabila kill them." – Sapa