KAMPALA (Reuters) – Congo’s President Joseph Kabila on Wednesday appeared to soften his stance on the rebels in eastern Congo by saying he would look into their grievances and that a report had been compiled to form the basis of any “contact” with the group.
Kabila’s government has repeatedly rejected direct talks with the M23 rebels, widely believed to be backed by Rwanda, who have captured the eastern city of Goma and vowed to “liberate” all of the vast central African country.
Rwanda has denied charges it supports the rebels.
“We’ve had a process that has been ongoing … what is called the evaluation of the turbulence,” Kabila told a press conference after two days of talks with the Rwandan and Ugandan presidents in Kampala to try to bring an end to the conflict.
“We have formally received the summary report of what has been done to date and it is on the basis of that (that) any other move, any contacts to be carried between the government and M23 of course (will be done),” he said.
The report was compiled by foreign ministers, who were also holding a parallel meeting in Kampala, as part of a regional effort to end the crisis.
The M23 say Kabila failed to grant them posts in the army in line with a peace deal that ended a previous revolt in 2009.
The process to evaluate the rebels’ grievances was conducted under the auspices of the 11-state International Conference for the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), that includes Congo and Rwanda and is chaired by Uganda.
Kabila, Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni demanded the rebels stop their mutiny, and pull out of Goma immediately. They said they opposed the bid by the M23 to overthrow the Congo government.
“The government of Congo is working around the clock to address the rebels’ issues and we conclude the issue,” Museveni, who chaired the talks, said.
He urged the rebels to abandon their plan of a 1,000-mile march to the capital Kinshasa.
“We don’t want it to be protracted. We don’t want to maintain insecurity, we want to eliminate it,” he said.
Kagame reiterated his stance that those responsible for Congo’s bloodshed were indigenous to the country.
“For the problems that are based in the Congo or have to be dealt with by the Congolese themselves, they should remain as such,” Kagame said.
(Writing by James Macharia; Editing by Michael Roddy and Sophie Hares)