Signing postponed for DR Congo peace roadmap

2013-01-28 10:32:12 GMT2013-01-28 18:32:12(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

ADDIS ABABA, Jan. 28 (Xinhua) -- Heads of state from the Great Lakes region and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) on Monday postponed the signing of the roadmap to peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRC).

The signing ceremony was to be presided over by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the African Union (AU) headquarters in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on the sidelines of the two-day AU summit.

"The decision to postpone the signing ceremony was made at the heads of state level. The reason given is that they had just received the document to be signed and needed time to study it, and build a consensus," said Boubacar Gaoussou Diarra, AU representative for the Great Lakes region.

He did not give the timeline for the signing for the document. The AU summit ends on Monday and if the document is not signed, it may take longer as it needs summoning of the heads of state for the ceremony.

The roadmap was to be signed by the presidents of Rwanda, Uganda, the DRC, Angola, Burundi, the Republic of Congo, South Africa and Tanzania.

It is aimed at ending conflicts in the eastern DRC, where a rebel group M23 formed by former DRC army mutineers has been active. Uganda and Rwanda are accused by the UN of backing the rebels, an allegation they have denied.

The presence of Ban would have also given the signing of the agreement the global political prominence it requires to end decades of instability in the expansive and mineral-rich DRC.

But Diarra said the postponement will not affect the plans to implement a neutral peacekeeping force that will bolster operations of the UN mission in Congo MONUSCO.

He said the postponement should rather be seen as an opportunity for further dialogue among the countries being most affected by the conflict in the DRC.

The proposed 4,000-strong force has three battalions with equipment like helicopters. The UN plan to use unmanned aerial vehicles or drones has been rejected by the DRC's neighbor Rwanda on the grounds that it will not have control over who uses the intelligence that may possibly be used against the country.

The new force will exclude Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi, the three countries directly affected by the instability in the DRC.

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