Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - Leaders of 11 African countries and four regional and international organizations on Sunday signed a peace deal which they hope will bring peace to the troubled Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Great Lakes Region.
The singing of the deal, at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, came only two days after the head of the UN mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), Roger Meece, told the UN Security Council that there have been “worrisome security developments”.
The worrisome developments are particularly in northern Katanga province where the Mai-Mai militia leader, Gédéon Kyungu Mutanga, known as Gédéon, escaped during a massive jail break in September 2011.
Gédéon is under a death sentence, dating back to 2009, for his role in the long-running conflict in eastern Congo.
“The situation has now reached alarming proportions, affecting a growing geographical region and already producing a major humanitarian crisis,' Meece told the Security Council.
Dubbed 'Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC and the Region', the new deal focuses on reforming the DRC state and ending regional meddling in its affairs.
It also creates two oversight mechanisms to make sure the 11 signatories - Angola, Burundi, Central Africa Republic, Congo, DRC, South Sudan, South Africa, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and Mozambique - observe their commitments with four organizations (UN, AU, ICLGR, SADC) which signed a separate document as guarantors.
'This signing...is a significant event in itself. But it is only the beginning of a comprehensive approach that will require sustained engagement,' Ban Ki-Moon, the UN Secretary General, said at the signing ceremony in the Ethiopian capital.
Under the agreement, the UN will deploy an intervention brigade, composed of soldiers from troop-contributing countries from the region, with expanded mandate from that of MONUSCO, which has been criticized as useless.
'This will be a peace-enforcing brigade...depending on the situation on the ground, the brigade will be given some specific mandates, I hope,' Ban told a press conference at the end of the deal-signing ceremony.
The agreement will toughen the UN mission to fight what the leaders call negative armed forces in eastern DRC.
AU has spoken out previously that it will not cede command and control of the proposed Neutral International Force (NIF), to be deployed to Congo under MONUSCO.
The 19,000-troop MONUSCO contingent has been in DRC for 12 years and is largely ineffective in preventing conflicts in eastern DRC, with Uganda's President Yeweri Museveni branding them as “military tourists” bent on sustaining the regional conflicts to earn from them.
With a proposed 4,000 troops, the NIF will be deployed to eastern DRC to take on the M23, FNL, FDLR and ADF-NALU which are a threat to stability in DR Congo, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda.
AU Peace and Security Commissioner, Ramtane Lamamra, said preparations for the deployment of the NIF are well underway. Tanzania has already offered to contribute a battalion, with remaining troops expected from other SADC member countries such as Namibia, South Africa and Mozambique.
The signing of the agreement Sunday was delayed by about a month as the leaders requested more time to investigate the details of the deal.
'The signing of this agreement means we have committed to put an end to the deplorable acts in our country,' DRC President Joseph Kabila told the signatories.