Congo neighbors agree not to aid armed groups
By Kirubel Tadesse, APADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia--Eleven African countries signed a United Nations-drafted peace deal on Sunday to stabilize the troubled Central African country of Congo, where rebels allegedly backed by neighboring countries last year threatened to oust the government.
February 25, 2013, 12:15 am TWN
Opening the agreement-signing meeting at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said peace, security and cooperation framework for Congo would bring stability to the region.
“The signing ceremony is a significant even in itself. But it is only the beginning of a comprehensive approach that will require sustained engagement. The framework before you outlines commitments and oversight mechanisms which aim at addressing key national and regional issues,” Ban said in his speech.
Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Central African Republic, Angola, Uganda, South Sudan, South Africa, Tanzania, and the Republic of Congo signed the accord.
Congo's neighbors collectively promised to not interfere in the internal affairs of the Congo. They also agreed to not tolerate or support armed groups. A U.N. report last year said that Rwanda and Uganda helped aid M23 rebels inside Congo. The two countries denied the allegations.
The U.N. says Congo suffers from persistent violence by both local and foreign armed groups that use rape as a weapon. The conflict has displaced nearly 2 million people. The U.N. said it will undertake a review of the its peacekeeping force in Congo, known as MONUSCO, to better help the country's government address security challenges. Ban said he would issue a special report on Congo and the Great Lakes region in coming days.
South African President Jacob Zuma welcomed the proposal to send more troops to Congo. But he said Congo's government needs to undertake “far-reaching reforms” for a lasting solution.
Under the new agreement the Congolese government agreed to fast-track security sector reform, particularly within its army and police, and to consolidate state authority in eastern parts of the country. It pledged to prevent armed groups from destabilizing neighboring countries.
Congo President Joseph Kabila also vowed to advance decentralization and expand social services across the nation. The deal calls for Kabila to soon put in place a national oversight mechanism in order to oversee the implementations of the commitments. The U.N., AU, African Development Bank and other international groups have agreed to support the effort.
An agreement signing was cancelled last month at the margins of the African Union summit at the last minute, and Ban at the time blamed “procedural issues” for the delay. Ban on Sunday proposed that the leaders should meet twice a year, at the margins of the AU and U.N. summits, to review the deal's progress.