The collapse of a peace deal for the troubled eastern Democratic Republic of Congo overshadowed a meeting of African leaders yesterday as efforts continued to drum up more support for military intervention in war-torn Mali.
UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon had urged leaders from Africa’s Great Lakes region to sign an agreement to end recurrent unrest in the east of the DRC, where M23 rebels control swathes of mineral-rich territory.
But a signing ceremony for the deal – the details of which have not been made public – was cancelled yesterday morning only 30 minutes before it was due to take place.
“This is a very complex issue, talks are continuing,” said Eri Kaneko, a spokesman for Ban, without giving further details.
The presidents of Rwanda and Uganda – which UN experts have accused of backing the M23, a charge both governments deny – and of the DRC, Angola, Burundi, Republic of Congo, South Africa and Tanzania had been expected to sign the deal.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame and his Ugandan counterpart, Yoweri Museveni, both refused to comment on the proposed deal, holding a discreet meeting yesterday on the side-lines of the AU summit, an AFP reporter said.
Ban urged regional leaders at the opening of the African Union summit on Sunday to “endorse a peace, security and cooperation framework to address the structural causes of the recurring cycles of violence” in the region.
The latest cycle of unrest in the eastern DRC erupted last year. The rebels seized the key eastern city of Goma in November but pulled out 12 days later.
Peace talks have been held in Uganda but have made little headway.
Other discussions at the AU summit – the second and final day of the 54-member bloc’s biannual meeting – focused on Mali, including the scaling-up of African troop numbers to help the Malian army battle Islamist militants who seized the country’s vast desert in the north of the country in April.
On Sunday, outgoing AU chairman Thomas Boni Yayi, the president of Benin, told fellow leaders that their response to the conflict in Mali had been too slow. He thanked France, the country’s former colonial ruler, for taking the lead.