The United Nations (UN) Ban Ki-moon has welcomed the signing of long-awaited accords between the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the M23 rebels it has been fighting until last month, and called on all other armed groups in the country to lay down their weapons and join the political process.
“This constitutes a positive step towards ending cycles of deadly conflicts that have caused immense suffering to the Congolese people,” Mr. Ban said in a statement from his spokesperson.
Talks between the M23 – mostly composed of soldiers who mutinied from the DRC national army in April last year – and the Government have been held in Kampala, Uganda, under the auspices of the Chairperson of the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, the Mediator, as well as Ugandan Defence Minister and Facilitator, Crispus Kiyonga.
The deal, reached after weeks of stalled talks, was finalized Thursday night in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, signed by President Museveni and President Joyce Banda of Malawi, the chairman of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
In related news, the United States has also hailed the successful conclusion of peace talks as a step towards lasting peace in Africa’s Great Lakes region.
Russ Feingold, the US special envoy for the region, helped broker the deal, which was clinched late Thursday.
Although the talks fell short of achieving a binding accord, Feingold described their outcome as “good news in a region that has had a lot of bad luck.”
“It really is a major step forward,” the former US Senator told AFP in a telephone interview during a stopover in Paris on his way back to the United States.
“The eastern Congo has been a terrible situation for almost 20 years because of the different armed conflicts which have left between five and six million people dead, resulted in an awful amount of sexual violence and thousands of child soldiers being enlisted to fight,” he added.