DRC should disarm genocidal forces in line with Sun City agreement, says Thabo Mbeki

Former South African President Thabo Mbeki. Picture: Supplied / Kelvin Jakachira

Former South African President Thabo Mbeki. Picture: Supplied / Kelvin Jakachira

Published Apr 9, 2024


By Kelvin Jakachira in Kigali, Rwanda

Former South African president Thabo Mbeki says the Democratic Republic of Congo should disarm genocidal forces who fled into its territory after committing the Genocide against the Tutsi in 1994 in line with the Sun City Agreement signed between Kigali and Kinshasa in April 2003.

Mbeki said the disarmament of these negative forces under the existing Sun City Agreement can ensure peace and stability is achieved in the eastern DRC.

The agreement was signed in April 2003 in South Africa’s casino resort, Sun City under the watchful eye of the then United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan.

It was seen as the panacea to the problems besetting eastern DRC but Mbeki said the agreement was unfortunately never implemented.

The former South African leader said implementation of the Sun City Agreement would bring a political solution to the instability in eastern DRC as the current framework does not work.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) deployed an intervention force to shore up the DRC military, which is fighting alongside the genocidal Forces of the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), to subdue a Congolese rebel movement called the M23.

The FDLR, mostly comprising remnants of the perpetrators of the Genocide against the Tutsi, are operating in eastern DRC where they are committing another genocide against Congolese Tutsis and trying to distabilise Rwanda in a bid to topple the government in Kigali.

The M23 is fighting to stop the killing and exclusion of Congolese Tutsi from the eastern DRC.

Mbeki, who was in Kigali to attended the 30th commemorations of the Genocide against the Tutsi, (Kwibuka30) told South African journalists that the problems in the eastern DRC can be resolved in the event that the DRC government implements the Sun City agreement and disarm the genocidal forces operating from its territory.

In response to an inquiry from South African journalists, Mbeki said: “I think you will remember that many, many years ago as the government of South Africa we worked with the people of the Congo to prepare for a return to democratic. Remember negotiations that took place in Sun City.

“So in that sense we were dealing with many challenges of the Congo including the situation in the eastern Congo. One of the consequences of that is that 2002, 2003 we convened a meeting of (then) President Joseph Kabila and President Paul Kagame together with (then) secretary general of the UN Kofi Annan,” Mbeki said.

“There was a negotiation as to how these two countries should work together to deal with the matter in the eastern Congo and they signed an agreement.

“It’s an existing agreement between (then) President Kabila and President Kagame which committed them that the Congolese government should make sure that it disarms and deal with all of the people who committed genocide in Rwanda and left for eastern Congo. They would disarm them and as a consequence Rwanda will withdraw its troops from eastern Congo. It’s a signed agreement. The problem is that it was never implemented. That’s exactly the basis for a political solution.”

Added Mbeki: “It’s already agreed by the two countries, signed by the presidents of the two countries witnessed by Kofi Annan when he was Secretary General of the UN. And we signed not just as South Africa as at the time I was also chairman of the African Union so there is an existing agreement and all it needs is its implementation. That’s a political solution. That’s the only way to solve the problem.”

Mbeki said there was no other way outside the Sun City Agreement to resolve the security challenges affecting the eastern DRC.

“There is no other way and that is why the presidents were quite willing to come and sit down and then sign an agreement to find a political solution to the problem. My argument is that let’s go back to that existing agreement and say the presidents of Rwanda and Congo must implement this thing which was signed. This matter can never be solved by military means, it can’t be.”

Speaking at the signing ceremony, Kabila hailed the agreement saying: "Today must be considered as a great day for the whole of Africa, one step more towards the sustainable development of the continent. The Congolese people, their government, and I are determined to live in harmony with the nine countries with which we share borders."

For his part, Kagame called the accord "a big step in the direction of resolving the conflict in the DRC, Burundi, Rwanda, among other countries".

"This agreement is important in many aspects, as it addresses two of the core issues that underlie conflict in the region - one, how to deal with the ex-FAR [former Rwandan armed forces] and Interahamwe and two, it paves the way for the withdrawal of forces who are involved in this conflict from the DRC."

The peace agreement committed the DRC to locating and disarming Rwandan Interahamwe militias and ex-FAR - the forces responsible for the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda who remain active in the DRC.

Meanwhile, Mbeki has hailed the progress Rwanda has made since 1994 saying: “I think the government and people of Rwanda have done very, very well in terms of recovery from the genocide. I am very glad that South Africa made its own contributions to all of this. It is very good progress and it must be sustained.

“If Rwanda can come out of a genocide and achieve the kind of progress that it has achieved I think it says to all of on the continent that whatever our problems nationally if we do the right thing we can recover.”

Mbeki challenged the South African government to take a leaf from Rwanda’s progress saying South Africa was regressing.

“There was a period when everything was moving very positively and then things changed and went the opposite direction. I think it’s very important to understand that. It answers the question therefore, why are we not moving in the footsteps of Rwanda in terms of development and so on. We must answer that question ourselves as South Africans. Why are we not following the example of Rwanda which is going progressively very well? Why is South Africa going in the opposite direction?”