DRC, M23 rebel talks to continue after failure to sign deal

2013-11-12 11:19

Kampala, Uganda – Peace efforts between the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and defeated M23 rebels will continue, Uganda’s government said, after the two sides failed to sign a much hoped for agreement.

“Both parties are still here in Uganda ... the talks have not been officially called off,” Ugandan government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo told reporters today.

The last-minute failure to sign a deal yesterday was a blow to international efforts to stabilise the African nation’s conflict-prone east.

Negotiations fell through after Kinshasa demanded changes to the agreement. But despite the failure to sign, the DRC’s Foreign Minister, Raymond Tshibanda, has insisted the government is committed to peace.

Uganda, which is hosting and mediating the long-running talks, said it was expecting the talks to continue, but gave no set date.

“As and when the DRC delegation will be ready, the facilitator will communicate a new date,” Opondo said.

The M23 rebels, one of the many armed groups operating in the mineral-rich but impoverished east of the DRC, have been routed by the national army backed by a 3 000-strong special UN intervention brigade.

The UN had accused both Rwanda and Uganda of backing the M23, a charge both countries have repeatedly denied.

With support from Rwanda notably whittled away to nothing in the face of concerted international pressure, the M23 announced last week that their 18-month insurgency was over.

The M23 said in a statement that the government had wanted to revise the text that already had been agreed by the two parties, calling the demand “unacceptable”, as the agreement had been settled earlier this month and “other stages preceding the signature had been accomplished”.

However, since that stage of the talks, the rebels had suffered a series of crushing military defeats, changing the situation on the ground and leaving government troops with the upper hand.

The lack of a deal yesterday was a disappointment to many, who had hoped it would be a key step towards building peace in the troubled region.

UN special envoy to the Great Lakes, Mary Robinson, and Martin Kobler, the UN secretary-general’s special representative in the DRC, voiced regret that the signing had not happened, but noted that the parties involved “expressed no differences on substantive points within the draft document”.

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