African leaders sign deal aimed at peace in eastern Congo
By Aaron Maasho
ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - African leaders signed a U.N.-mediated deal on Sunday aimed at ending two decades of conflict in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo and paving the way for the deployment of a new military brigade to take on rebel groups.
Congo's army is fighting the M23 rebels, who have hived off a fiefdom in North Kivu province in a conflict that has dragged Congo's eastern region back into war and displaced more than half a million people.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who witnessed the signing in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, said he hoped the accord would bring "an era of peace and stability" for Congo and Africa's Great Lakes, and added that he would soon name a special envoy for the region.
The Great Lakes area, where colonial era borders cut through ethnic groups, has in the last 20 years been a crucible of conflict that has launched multiple uprisings and invasions.
"It is only the beginning of a comprehensive approach that will require sustained engagement," Ban said of the accord, which did not include any representatives of rebel groups.
The agreement was signed by leaders and envoys of 11 African countries, including Rwanda and Uganda, which have been accused by U.N. experts of stoking the rebellion. They deny the accusation.
Speaking after the signing, Ugandan Vice President Edward Ssekandi said the deal could speed up the deployment of a new, U.N.-flagged intervention force to take on the rebels.
"We should be able to fast-track the ongoing consultation so that the force, with a robust mandate and capability, is put in place," he said. Continued...