[QODLink]
Africa

DRC rebels say peace deal possible by March

Spokesman for M23 movement says negotiations are going well, though government spokesman is less optimistic.
Last Modified: 02 Feb 2013 00:28
The rebels have come under pressure amid reports the UN could deploy more forces in the eastern DRC [EPA]

Congolese rebels have said they expect to sign a peace deal with the government by the end of February that would end their ten-month revolt.

The M23 rebels have carved out a fiefdom in eastern Congo's North Kivu province that has dragged Congo's eastern region back into war and displaced an estimated 500,000 people.

Bertrand Bisimwa, a spokesperson for the rebels and a participant in the talks, said negotiations with the government have already covered substantial ground.

"We still have a lot of business to cover, but if we keep this speed I think it's possible by end of February we'll have finished talks and signed an agreement," Bisimwa told the Reuters news agency in Kampala. "We're satisfied with the speed of negotiations."

But Lambert Mende, a spokesman for the government, was less optimistic.

"We were hoping to have things finished by the end of February but M23 have made lots of capricious extra demands, which is slowing down the process," Mende said.

'Happy with the progress'

The Kampala talks aim to bring the rebels and Kinshasa closer on a wide range of economic, political and security issues dividing the two sides, including amnesty for "war and insurgency acts," the release of political prisoners and reparation of damages due to the war.

The M23 rebels, who launched their offensive after accusing president Joseph Kabila of reneging on the terms of a March 2009 peace agreement, have since broadened their goals to include removal of Kabila and "liberation" of the entire Congo.

"We have to get through these quickly, as we have much more important things to discuss," Mende said, but added: "One can say we're happy with the progress."

The rebels agreed to the peace talks in December after an international conference pressured them into pulling back from North Kivu's capital, Goma.

M23 has come under additional pressure after reports that UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon will recommend to the Security Council that peacekeepers be deployed in eastern DRC.

Foreign powers fear the conflict in eastern Congo could trigger another regional war in a borderlands zone that has suffered nearly two decades of turmoil.

Successive cross-border conflicts have killed and uprooted millions in the Congo basin since the colonial era, driven by political and ethnic divisions and competition for vast mineral resources.

Independent UN experts say the M23 insurgency receives cross-border support from Rwanda and Uganda, which both governments strongly deny.

400

Source:
Reuters
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
'Justice for All' demonstrations swell across the US over the deaths of African Americans in police encounters.
Six former Guantanamo detainees are now free in Uruguay with some hailing the decision to grant them asylum.
Disproportionately high number of Aboriginal people in prison highlights inequality and marginalisation, critics say.
Nearly half of Canadians have suffered inappropriate advances on the job - and the political arena is no exception.
Featured
Women's rights activists are demanding change after Hanna Lalango, 16, was gang-raped on a bus and left for dead.
Buried in Sweden's northern forest, Sorsele has welcomed many unaccompanied kids who help stabilise a town exodus.
A look at the changing face of North Korea, three years after the death of 'Dear Leader'.
While some fear a Muslim backlash after café killings, solidarity instead appears to be the order of the day.
Victims spared by the deadly disease are reporting blindness and other unexpected post-Ebola health issues.