NAIROBI (AFP) – Slow implementation of a critical peace deal for Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) M23 rebels is jeopardising peace in the region, the UN, United States and African Union warned Saturday.
The rebels’ 18-month war, during which they briefly seized the key town of Goma, capital of mineral rich North Kivu province, was brought to an end a year ago by government troops and UN peacekeepers, with fighters fleeing into neighbouring Uganda and Rwanda.
But top international envoys – including from the African Union, European Union, United Nations and US – warned in a statement they “note with concern that while important steps have been made, the overall implementation of the Nairobi declarations remains slow.”
With their fighters disarmed and held under guard in camps in Uganda and Rwanda the M23 now hold little influence on the ground.
However, M23 leaders have warned they would fight again should agreements fail. “Only with sustained and collective efforts will lasting peace and stability be achieved in eastern DRC,” international envoys said, one year to the day since the deal was signed in the Kenyan capital Nairobi. Warring forces agreed last year to “find lasting solutions” to end a war that had “caused immense suffering and claimed many lives.”
Signatures of the statement include UN regional envoy Said Djinnit, AU envoy Boubacar Diarra, as well as the EU, US and former colonial ruler Belgium. The defeated rebels told AFP last month of mounting frustrations among the group’s confined-to-camp fighters.
Envoys called on “the governments of the DRC, Uganda and Rwanda to strengthen their collaboration to speed up the repatriation to DRC of all eligible ex-M23 combatants and their dependents,” the statement added.
DR Congo President Joseph Kabila announced an amnesty in February for M23 fighters, although serious crime are excluded including torture and rape, allegations that have been levelled at large numbers of M23 fighters.