NAIROBI – Kinshasa and the M23 rebels signed documents officially burying the hatchet Thursday in Nairobi, a month after the end of the fighting in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
“The DR Congo government and M23 have respectively signed declarations” including the “decision by M23 to end rebellion and transform itself into a legitimate political party,” read a document signed by key broker, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
Malawian President Joyce Banda also signed the document in Nairobi, on behalf of the 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC).
The Kenyan presidency trumpeted a “peace deal” but Kinshasa stressed there had only been a signing of unilateral declarations by both sides.
Congolese government spokesman Lambert Mende said his side had signed a document pledging to facilitate the demobilization and reintegration of the rebels.
Mende also said Kinshasa had vowed to submit a bill to parliament on granting some rebel fighters amnesty but insisted, “There is no accord.”
The M23, the latest incarnation of an ethnic Tutsi rebellion in eastern DRC, laid down its arms in early November after an offensive by the army and a special U.N. brigade.
The fighters were allegedly supported by neighboring Rwanda and Uganda, claims both nations have repeatedly rejected.
Kinshasa had responded to international requests for a subsequent resumption of peace talks in Kampala by arguing it saw no reason to negotiate with a group it had eradicated.
Stabilizing eastern DR Congo will not be easy. Previous peace deals for the region have foundered because they were not implemented or did not address underlying problems.
“We call upon international partners, particularly the United Nations and African Union, to work together and provide support and services to the government of DRC for the implementation of the commitments,” the document signed by Museveni and Banda added.
Eastern DR Congo was the cradle of two wars that racked the vast Central African country between 1996 and 2003, drawing in armies from a large swath of Africa that fought in part over access to vast mineral wealth.