The New Times (Kigali)

24 February 2013

Rwanda Welcomes DRC Peace Deal

African heads of state are in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, to sign a framework agreement on the Democratic Republic of Congo. The United ... ( Resource: DR Congo Peace Deal to be Signed

President Paul Kagame has welcomed the deal aimed at bringing peace and stability to the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo after years of unrest.

The new framework was signed yesterday by 11 countries in the Great Lakes region in the Ethiopian Capital, Addis Ababa, in the presence of UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

Others present were Presidents of the DR Congo, South Africa, Mozambique, Congo and Tanzania while Uganda, Angola, Burundi, the Central African Republic and Zambia were represented by envoys.

Speaking after the signing ceremony, President Kagame said, "This Framework Agreement is an important step and opportunity in reaffirming our commitment to regional peace. I unreservedly welcome it."

The eastern DRC has been ravaged by conflict involving numerous armed groups for the past two decades, with new rebel movements spawned on a regular basis.

Among those rebels include the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) which is mainly composed of elements responsible for the1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.

Under the deal, the DRC will be required to deepen security sector reform, particularly with respect to the Army and Police; to consolidate State authority, particularly in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, including preventing armed groups from destabilising neighbouring countries.

According to President Kagame, nothing would be of greater benefit to Rwanda than real progress towards regional peace and stability.

He pointed out that previous efforts undertaken with the DRC in the past decade had produced some encouraging improvements. But unfortunately what seemed like a strong basis for further progress was not sustained, with grave repercussions, he added.

The accord calls for regional countries to refrain from interfering in each other's affairs and aims to encourage the reform of weak institutions in the DRC, Africa's second largest country.

It could also lead to creation of a special UN "intervention brigade" in eastern DR Congo to combat rebel groups as well as new political efforts.

The Head of State outlined aspects of the agreement that provides renewed optimism for finding a real solution.

"The pursuit of durable peace requires the collaborative engagement of the entire region and the international community. The framework recognises that a holistic approach that addresses the multi-faceted root causes is the only way to end instability. Any meaningful contribution towards lasting peace in the DRC and the Great Lakes region has to abandon the self-defeating practice of selectivity in both memory and responsibility regarding the known, longstanding causes of recurring conflict," he said.

Kagame said the agreement presents a valuable opportunity for all parties to build on the work started by the region and the wider continent, and focus seriously on addressing the real problems as clearly identified.

"It is crucial that the signing of this agreement not be seen as the end result of a peace process, but as a big step in the right direction."

The Head of State called on signatories and observers of the accord signing to be genuine about addressing the real problems of rights, justice and development and finding real solutions for the people who look for them from their leaders.

UN Secretary General Ki-moon expressed his optimism for the framework agreement as path to realising stability in eastern DRC.

He also noted that, it is only the beginning of a comprehensive approach that will require sustained engagement.

The African Union Commissioner in Charge of Peace and Security, Ramtane Lamamra, said that the peace deal shows that the right course of action is still being taken and that, based on this, there are opportunities and avenues which will be open for common action for the peace and security of DRC and in the region.

The pact calls on regional actors to neither tolerate nor provide assistance or support of any kind to armed groups. It also sets out a plan for the appointment of a United Nations Special Envoy to support efforts to reach durable solutions in a multi-track plan that allows the convergence of all initiatives in progress.

The latest surge in violence was in 2012 and culminated in the rebel M23 force briefly seizing the key town of Goma last November.

Western countries have accused Rwanda and Uganda of supporting the M23 rebels but both countries have strongly denied the allegations. The accusations resulted to donor countries suspending aid to Rwanda last year.

In a related development, the European Union welcomed the latest deal. In a joint statement, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and the bloc's commissioner for development, Andris Piebalgs and expressed support for a stronger UN presence in DRC.

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