Violence in Eastern Congo: Belgium hopes for a quick resumption of dialogue
The Belgian Foreign Affairs minister, Hadja Lahbib, said this Friday February 3, after her meeting in Kinshasa with Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi that Belgium hopes for a quick resumption of dialogue in the region.
"An escalation into war in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo must absolutely be avoided. It is time for the parties involved to stop blaming each other and show what they want to do to restore peace," stated Lahbib.
An extraordinary summit will be held on Saturday in the Burundian capital Bujumbura to discuss the security situation in Eastern Congo. The summit, under the auspices of the East African Community, represents an opportunity to bring the main players together at the table, perhaps giving new impetus to a peace process that has reached an impasse. "We expect a lot from this even though the tensions are extreme," said Lahbib.
Saturday's meeting will aim to assess the progress of the Luanda pacification process. The Congolese president should demand that the regional force deployed in the region, which at the very least arouses mistrust on the Congolese side, adopt a more offensive attitude in the conflict, reported the head of Belgian diplomacy.
"We had a lot to say to each other," commented Ms. Lahbib after her meeting with Mr. Tshisekedi. “The situation worries us. I hope that Rwanda and the DRC will be able to talk to each other, apply the agreements, restore the currently non-existent trust and finally achieve disarmament, the demobilization of the M23 and the FDLR,” said Lahbib.
The minister also wanted to "reassure" her host about Belgium's intransigence regarding respect for international borders and therefore the integrity of the territory of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Moreover, in addition to the countless victims they cause, the violence in eastern DRC casts doubt on the possibility of seriously organizing the December 20 elections there.
In Kinshasa, posters calling on citizens to register in order to be able to vote being, in certain districts, are almost as numerous as those welcoming Pope Francis.
Near the Belgian Embassy, Lahbib had the opportunity to visit one of the country's 22,000 enrollment offices, where some 49 million voters will be expected by the end of the year.
Citizen registration is a real headache in a country where displacement is a permanent reality. The stakes are nevertheless high, since the distribution of the 500 deputies will vary according to the number of voters in each region.
In the east of the country, the process should start at the end of February. The deployment of state-of-the-art South Korean equipment acquired by the DRC is going well there so far, according to the chief of staff of the Electoral Commission (Ceni), Dieudonné Tshiyoyo.
Observers, both national and international, are already active in certain regions, he added. On this subject, the Minister repeated to the President that the European Union was ready to participate in this task, a possibility to which Felix Tshisekedi had opened the door, without however formulating the request.
“It is essential that these elections be inclusive, both for the population and for the candidates who will make themselves known,” concluded Lahbib.
Belgian Foreign minister Hadja Lahbib and DRC Congo President Felix Tshisekedi in Kinshasa, DR Congo, 3 February 2023 © BELGA PHOTO (ERIC LALMAND)