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Scholarly solutions to peace and stability in Great Lakes Region.

Over 100 scholars and practitioners from 12 countries convened at a High Level Policy Dialogue that was organized by Rwanda Governance Board (RGB). The dialogue, “Assessing the Imperatives of Peace and Stability in the Great Lakes Region” took place at Hotel des Milles Collines, Kigali, November 6-7, 2012.

The conference that was officially opened by the Minister of Education, Hon. Vincent Biruta aimed at seeking scholarly solutions to challenges of governance, regional security and stability according to a statement from RGB website. Participants at the dialogue came from Burundi, DRC, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana, Senegal, Nigeria, Belgium, China, USA and Rwanda the host nation.

The dialogue took place at a time when the Eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo is in turmoil as fighting between the government and M23 rebels groups continues. Rebels in the eastern DRC have advanced to within few kilometers of the provincial capital, Goma according to BBC Africa. The M23 rebels say they have no plans to take the city but residents fear it could fall at any moment according to the same source.

Participants at the conference were invited to think the necessary ingredients of peace initiatives with the aim of finding workable solutions, applying the lessons learnt and avoiding mistakes of the past according to a statement from Rwanda Governance Board website. Academicians taking part at the conference agreed on the roots causes of conflicts that had and continue to ravage countries in the Great Lakes Regions.

The colonial policy of divide and rule that led to the killings of independence heroes (Burundi, Rwanda and DRC), destruction of homegrown systems of governance and military institutions by colonial powers, and colonial borders as decided by the Berlin conference of 1884-1885 were pointed out as some of the roots causes of many conflicts that took place in Great Lakes Regions.

Dr Charles Kabwete, head of the department of political science at the National University of Rwanda, was quoted by Global Times as saying that most of the conflicts in the region have been ethnic based owing to the colonial legacy that brought divisionism among people in order to rule them. Kabwete observed that there were some conflicts between communities during the pre-colonial period, but the post-colonial era was worse.

During discussions, participants agreed that national and regional mechanisms of conflicts resolution have proven to be more effective in addressing local peace imperatives than international ones. The International Conference on the Great Lakes Regions (ICGLR) is a good example whereby regional leaders had been meeting to discuss how a sustainable peace can be reached on the ongoing conflicts in eastern parts of DRC.

The International Conference on the Great Lakes Regions recently informed the international, regional and public community that efforts are underway to stabilize the Eastern Part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Member States affected by the crisis. Its Executive Secretary released a press statement on the 7th of November, 2012 in Bujumbura, Burundi.

Double standards and biased reports by external actors on issues pertaining to peace and security in the region have also been pointed out as factors that weaken conflict resolution efforts in the region. A recent UN group of experts accusing Uganda and Rwanda of supporting M23 rebels who have been fighting the DR Congo government come to mind. Moreover, the two countries are active in finding a sustainable peace in DRC through the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region and have categorically denied any wrongdoing.

On 15th of November, 2012 Rwanda`s ministry of foreign affairs and cooperation urged the Congolese army (FARDC) and M23 to stop fighting and respect the decisions of the ICGLR on cessation of hostilities in DRC. Rwanda’s Foreign Minister and Government Spokesperson Louise Mushikiwabo expressed concern that the new fighting will undermine the ongoing ICGLR peace process.

The two day high level policy dialogue came up with recommendations on how to strengthen peace in the region. Commitment to good governance practices and building effective state institutions that serve the interests of the people is one of the recommendations that came out the high level dialogue. The International Conference on the Great Lakes Region was tasked by the participants to play a diplomatic role in resolving conflicts in the region.

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