Kampala - The Democratic Republic of Congo has said it will not negotiate with rebels who mutinied from the army to battle government forces in the country's war-torn eastern region.
“We don't want them to survive as a movement, as an ideology, we don't want to see their actions continue,” Raymond Tshibanda, the DR Congo's foreign minister, told reporters late Wednesday.
“This is what we are after and put that way there is no question about it, there is nothing to discuss, to negotiate,” he added.
The rebels, known as M23, are drawn from an earlier rebel movement, the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), and were integrated into the army in 2009 after a peace deal that M23 claims Kinshasa failed to respect.
Regional leaders, including DR Congo President Joseph Kabila, met for a two-day summit in Kampala this week to discuss setting up a neutral force to fight rebels in the east, but failed to make any concrete breakthrough.
The leaders agreed to meet again in a month after tasking defence ministers from the region to come up with more details of a potential force.
However, while Uganda and Rwanda are pushing for a force to be drawn from regional armies, Tshibanda said that Kinshasa would instead prefer to see the mandate of the UN mission in DR Congo (MONUSCO) strengthened.
Tshibanda repeated charges that Rwanda is backing the M23 rebels, who mutinied in April demanding better pay and full implementation of the 2009 deal.
“We say Rwanda is providing assistance and support to M23,” Tshibanda said.
Kigali has denied the allegations, and in turn accuses its neighbour of plotting attacks with Rwandan Hutu rebels based in the same region.
A UN report published in June said there was ample evidence that Kigali was actively involved in the M23 rebellion, led by a renegade Congolese general who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.
“When we talk about a neutral force clearly it cannot involve Congolese troops because it is international, and it cannot involve Rwandan troops as Rwanda is a part of the problem,” Tshibanda said.
Tshibanda said that DR Congo could turn to other options - potentially including inviting a force from the southern African regional bloc SADC to help put down the rebellion - if talks over a neutral force drag on.
“The door is not closed to other solutions,” Thsibanda said.
African Union officials said three weeks ago that the neutral force needed to be up and running in the space of “weeks” rather than months, a prospect that now looks unlikely.
Fighting between M23 and the government army died down in the run-up to the Kampala conference after Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni reached out to the rebels and regional leaders, Tshibanda said. - Sapa-AFP