DRC, M23 rebels fail to sign

2013-11-11 23:09
(Picture: AP)

(Picture: AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Entebbe - The Democratic Republic of Congo and defeated M23 rebels failed to sign a peace deal on Monday hoped to be a key step in ending decades of war, after Kinshasa demanded the agreement be revised.

The "DRC delegation has aborted the signing of agreement with M23," Ugandan government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo said, adding that the meeting was adjourned without a new date scheduled.

The rebels, one of many armed groups operating in the mineral-rich but impoverished east of the DR Congo, have been routed by the national army, who are backed by a 3 000-strong special UN intervention brigade.

"For some strange reason the delegation of the DRC government did not enter the conference room, where the signing ceremony was expected to be," Opondo told reporters.

"They belatedly called for revision of the terms of the agreement and we have adjourned consequently."

However, DR Congo government spokesperson Lambert Mende said the problem was the title of the deal to be signed, and the legal weight it therefore carried.

"We want to sign a 'declaration', but the mediator, for a reason we do not understand, wants to impose an 'accord' upon us," Mende said.

"If he changed his mind, even tonight, we could sign."

Allegedly supported by neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda but seemingly abandoned by their sponsors due to international pressure, the M23 announced last week that its 18-month insurgency was over.

Delegations from both Kinshasa's government and the rebels arrived Monday evening at Uganda's State House in Entebbe, a town close to Kampala on the shores of Lake Victoria, where the rebels had been expected to formalise the end of their rebellion in writing.

Kinshasa backed out

International observers, including from the United Nations and African Union, as well as from Belgium, Britain, France and Norway, also turned up to witness the deal, Opondo said.

With Kinshasa backing out, it is not immediately certain what will happen next.

However, the M23, a mainly ethnic-Tutsi force of mutineers from the Congolese army, have no military leverage left and little room for manoeuvre.

Lack of deal a disappointment

A key outstanding issue is the fate of about 1 500 M23 fighters who have crossed into Uganda and are languishing in camps along the border. Uganda has refused to hand them over to the DR Congo.

Around 100 more injured rebels have crossed to Rwanda.

Mende had said earlier the rebels would be dealt with "case by case". Many rank-and-file fighters were expected to be given the option to return to the Congolese army.

More complicated is the fate of some 100 M23 commanders. These include M23 leader Sultani Makenga, accused of participating in several massacres, mutilations, abductions and sexual violence, sometimes against children.

The failure - for now, at least - to sign a deal will disappoint many. The UN special envoy to the Great Lakes, Mary Robinson, told AFP that signing the accord would be "a very important step for peace".

Brutal war

She said after defeating M23, operations would follow to neutralise other rebel groups in a concerted effort to end one of Africa's most brutal and longest-running wars.

But even if a deal is signed, stabilising eastern DR Congo will not be easy. Previous peace deals for the region have foundered because they were not implemented or did not address underlying problems.

Oxfam on Monday warned the "conflict is far from over", noting over 30 other armed groups operate in the region and civilians risk violence on a daily basis.

Human Rights Watch last week warned "numerous challenges remain", noting eastern DRC "has been beleaguered by abuses by other armed groups, as well as by the Congolese army."

Robinson said she believed Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni - who deny backing the M23 - were committed to an 11-nation regional peace agreement signed in February.

She said the priority would now shift to defeating the DR Congo-based Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a descendant of Hutu extremist groups that carried out the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

Rwanda's minority Tutsi-led government views the FDLR as a major security threat. Dealing with the group is seen as crucial to addressing the neighbouring country's concerns and preventing the emergence of yet another Rwandan-backed proxy.

Read more on:    oxfam  |  fdlr  |  m23  |  drc  |  central africa

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.