U.N. says delayed Congo peace deal due to be signed February 24

Sat Feb 16, 2013 3:06pm EST
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By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - A delayed U.N.-mediated peace deal aimed at ending two decades of conflict in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is due to be signed in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on February 24, the United Nations said on Saturday.

African leaders failed to sign the deal last month due to the concerns of some countries over who would command a new regional force that would deploy in eastern Congo and take on armed groups operating in the conflict-torn region.

The so-called intervention brigade would be contained within the existing U.N. peacekeeping force in Congo, known as MONUSCO.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sent out invitations on Friday for the February 24 signing ceremony and intended to travel to Ethiopia for the event, his spokesman, Martin Nesirky, said. "All the invited presidents have committed to either be there or delegate power to sign," Nesirky said.

Rwandan Deputy U.N. Ambassador Olivier Nduhungirehe posted on Twitter that the "African Union, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, Southern African Development Community Chairs, as well as 10 Heads of States of the region will attend the signing ceremony."

Envoys have said that one of the main reasons the deal was not signed in January was that three countries in the 15-member Southern African Development Community regional bloc - South Africa, Tanzania and Mozambique - felt they did not have enough information on the enforcement brigade.

The creation of an enforcement brigade within a U.N. peacekeeping mission is new for the United Nations, according to officials in the world body. Peace enforcement missions allow the use of lethal force in serious combat situations, while peacekeeping operations are intended to support and monitor an already existing ceasefire, diplomats and U.N. officials say.

A new Security Council resolution would be needed to approve the intervention unit and is likely to be supported by the 15-member council, envoys have said.   Continued...