The M23 and Congolese government delegation have finally begun negotiations today--it wasn't a very promising start, as both sides led off with accusations.
Discussions will begin in earnest tomorrow. What can we expect?
These initial discussions will focus on the rules of the game--who participates (government, opposition, M23, civil society?), what is on the agenda (just the M23 agreement or much broader political issues?) and what the procedural guidelines will be. It is clear that the two sides will lock horns over all of these issues.
President Joseph Kabila's delegation, led by Foreign Minister Raymond Tshibanda, has said the talks will focus on the March 23, 2009 agreement--aside from the return of refugees, these are largely issues to do with the ranks and salaries of M23 officers, as well as the integration of their political cadres. One of the previous negotiators told me, "For us this is a matter of offering the officers positions in the army, the political demands are window-dressing." One of the current delegates suggested that they could integrate both political and military cadres, and that the main sticking points had to do with the most notorious human rights abusers, such as Bosco Ntaganda, Innocent Kaina, and Sultani Makenga. It's probably redundant to say: this cutting-up-the-pie logic has not been very successful in the past.[view whole blog post ]