African leaders sign DR Congo peace deal
Leaders from Africa’s Great Lakes regional nations have signed a new peace deal aimed at bringing stability to the war-torn east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, witnessed the signing on Sunday at the African Union’s headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The presidents of the DRC, Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia either attended or delegated the power to sign the deal.
According to the UN, the “peace framework agreement” could lead to the creation of a special UN intervention brigade in eastern DRC to combat rebel groups and renew political efforts.
But after almost two decades of war, expectations are low.
“I think it would be wrong to have too great expectations because the situation here is very difficult,” Alex Queval, head of the UN mission in North Kivu, told Al Jazeera. “The conflict has been going on for at least 19 years, so it’s not going to be solved overnight, but I definitely think that this approach can be a new beginning.”
Al Jazeera’s Nazanine Moshiri, reporting from the Mugunga camp for internally displaced persons outside Goma, said people there “really hope this [agreement] is the beginning of something.”
Mugunga is host to tens of thousands of Congolese people who had to flee their homes following violence in the east in November 2012.
Despite the signing on Sunday, problems remain with the peace process, she said.
“We still dont know what kind of powers a special UN envoy would have [and] whether those signing will have a mechanism overseeing whether they will abide by what they signed up for,” she said.
The DRC’s mineral-rich east has been ravaged by numerous armed groups, with new rebel movements spawned on a regular basis, some of them with backing from neighbouring countries.
The latest surge in violence was in 2012 and culminated in the rebel March 23 Movement (M23) force briefly seizing the key town of Goma last November.
M23, which was not invited to Sunday’s meeting, was founded by former fighters of an ethnic-Tutsi rebel group whose members were integrated into the regular army under a peace deal whose terms they claim were never fully delivered.
The group’s main demand now is the full implementation of a peace accord signed on March 23, 2009.
M23 controls part of the Rutshuru region, an unstable but fertile territory that lies in mineral-rich North Kivu province and borders on Rwanda and Uganda.
Several of its leaders have been hit by UN sanctions over alleged atrocities. The group has been accused of raping women and girls, using child soldiers and killing civilians.
Peace talks have been held in Uganda, but so far have made little headway.
MONUSCO, the peacekeeping mission already deployed in DRC, is one of the UN’s biggest.
It currently has about 17,000 troops and, under its Security Council mandate, is allowed to have up to 19,800.
The UN wants to toughen MONUSCO with the addition of a 2,500-strong intervention brigade to tackle the armed groups that have plagued the resource-rich region.
A first attempt to sign the agreement last month was called off over procedural concerns, not over the content of the agreement, the UN said.
Moshiri said civil society groups have complained that “they’re not involved in Sunday’s agreement, and that there is no concrete action plan to deal with the root causes of the conflict, which are mainly poverty and corruption”.
Fresh violence threatens DR Congo peace deal
Fighting erupts between Congolese troops and breakaway rebel group days after peace deal was signed by regional leaders.
Last Modified: 28 Feb 2013 11:17
Less than a week after the Democratic Republic of Congo and neighbouring African nations signed a peace accord to hold off hostilties, a fresh wave of violence has erupted in the central African nation.
Fighting erupted on Thursday between the Congolese troops and the rebel group Alliance of Patriots for a Free and Sovereign Congo (APCLS) in Kitchanga, about 90km from Goma, Al Jazeera’s Nazanine Moshiri reported.
It is not known if the latest fighting has resulted into casualties, but at least 3,000 civilians have sought refuge near a UN base in Kitchanga, according to Moshiri.
On Sunday, DR Congo signed an agreement with 10 other African nations including Rwanda and Uganda, which were accused in a UN report last year of aiding M23 rebels, who swept through eastern Congo and captured the key city of Goma in November. Both countries have denied the allegations.
Under Sunday’s agreement, Congo’s neighbours agreed not to tolerate or support armed groups.
The Congolese government pledged to prevent armed groups from destabilising neighboring countries, and agreed to fast-track security sector reform, particularly within its army and police, and to consolidate state authority in the east.
M23 leadership struggle
A looming leadership struggle also threatens to split the more prominent rebel group, M23, which some fear could lead to more waves of violence there.
An “internal fight” is going on between M23 rebels loyal to Bosco Ntaganda and his rival leader Sultani Makenga, according to Moshiri.
Ntaganda, who is in hiding, is a former Congolese general wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court at The Hague and publicly had very little to do with the group.
Makenga, on the other hand “is far more cautious type of leader” who wants to wait for a peace agreement currently being discussed in Kampala in Uganda.
“We are hearing credible reports that Ntaganda is trying to persuade M23 to take Goma again, and we understand he has the loyalty of several top commanders as well as some rebel troops,” Moshiri said.
A UN source also told Al Jazeera that he would not be surprised if a “shootout” erupts in the coming days.
“Things have got that bad,” Moshiri said.
Fighting in the area of Rutchuru on Sunday and Monday, among M23 factions, left at least eight people dead, she said.
Mineral-rich eastern Congo has been engulfed in fighting since the 1994 Rwanda genocide.
The UN has more than 17,700 peacekeepers in Congo, assisted by more than 1,400 international police.
But they were unable to protect civilians from the M23 rebels whose movement began in April 2012 when hundreds of troops defected from the Congolese armed forces.
With inputs from Nazanine Moshiri