Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila arriving at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in late January 2013. A new peace agreement has been signed to resolve the conflict in eastern DRC., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Congo peace deal reached in Mozambique
Sun Feb 10, 2013 3:29AM GMT
The leaders of the countries in the Great Lakes region of Africa have reached a consensus on a UN-mediated peace agreement meant to end the interminable cycles of violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Meeting in the Mozambican capital Maputo late on Friday, leaders from the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) approved the deployment of a 4,000-strong peacekeeping force, which would come from the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) countries, to Congo.
The force will be able to combat "whoever is trying to destabilize the situation in the eastern part of Congo," SADC Secretary General Tomaz Salomao said after the meeting.
ICGLR leaders had originally been expected to sign the deal on January 29 on the sidelines of the African Union summit in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. But UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon delayed the signing over "procedural issues."
The peacekeeping force still needs UN Security Council clearance.
Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete hailed the agreement, saying it would lead to "a better situation in the Congo".
"It is a big leap forward for peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo," said Kikwete, who heads SADC's security wing.
In July 2012, Congolese President Joseph Kabila and Rwandan President Paul Kagame, along with other leaders from the Great Lakes region, signed an accord that called for the creation of a neutral international military force to combat rebels in the provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu in the eastern Congo.
The agreement also called for the Great Lakes leaders to work with the African Union and the United Nations "for an immediate establishment of a neutral international force to eradicate M23, FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda), and all other negative forces in eastern DRC, and patrol and secure the border zones."
The March 23 movement (M23) rebels defected from the Congolese army in April 2012 in protest over alleged mistreatment in the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC). They had previously been integrated into the Congolese army under a peace deal signed in 2009.
Since early May 2012, nearly 3 million people have fled their homes in the eastern Congo. About 2.5 million have resettled in Congo, but more than 460,000 have crossed into neighboring Rwanda and Uganda.
Congo has faced numerous problems over the past few decades, such as grinding poverty, crumbling infrastructure, and a war in the east of the country that has dragged on since 1998 and left over 5.5 million people dead.