The signing of a peace charter for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) presents an opportunity to bring about stability in Africa's war-torn Great Lakes region, says South African President Jacob Zuma.
Zuma was speaking at the African Union (AU) headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Sunday following the singing of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Great Lakes Region.
The 11 signatories to the framework were the presidents and representatives of Angola, Burundi, the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, the DRC, Rwanda, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.
The African Union and the United Nations joined hands to facilitate the signing of the framework, which sets out a list of commitments to achieve peace. It also includes an oversight mechanism to facilitate follow-up and implementation of the commitments made.
Zuma conceded that the framework in itself did not provide all the answers, but said it was an instrument "that points the government of the DRC, its immediate neighbours and the international community in a direction that will take this country out of the current morass".
The Eastern DRC has been in a state of chaos for over a decade now, while concerns continue over the persistent illegal exploitation of natural resources in the Great Lakes region.
Zuma said the framework's success would depend on the commitment "and ultimately the concrete actions taken by all the parties to it, to interpret and implement it to its fullest noble intention."
He hailed the commitment of the international community to walk alongside the DRC and its neighours on the path towards peace and stability.
He said "a heavy burden" of responsibility fell on the government of the DRC and its neighbours to implement the plan.
"Theirs is the historic task of freeing the people of the DRC and the region from its tortuous history of conflict and instability, and to introduce a new future offering democracy, peace, stability, progress and prosperity," Zuma said.
He said South Africa was committed to partnering with the government and people of the DRC as they responded to the urgent challenges of development.
"We believe that only a comprehensive political solution would form the basis of lasting peace in the eastern DRC."