Congo blames Uganda for failed talks

The Congolese government delegation has quit Ugandan-hosted talks with M23 rebels.

FILE: The head of the M23 rebel military forces, Brigadier-General Sultani Makenga leans on a car on November 25, 2012 on the grounds of a military residence in Goma in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Picture: AFP.

KINSHASA/KAMPAL - The Congolese government delegation has quit Ugandan-hosted talks with M23 rebels, saying Kampala's support for insurgents was to blame for the failure to sign a document due to officially end Congo's latest rebellion.

Congo's accusations against Uganda shows the deep mistrust in the region, a barrier standing in the way of long-term peace despite the defeat of the M23's 20 month insurgency by Congo's United Nations (UN)-backed army.

Okello Oryem, Uganda's junior foreign affairs minister, did not immediately comment on the accusations, but said he expected it would take a few more days before any deal could be signed to end the most serious Congolese uprising in a decade.

"Uganda remains the only reliable peace partner for DRC. What affects them, affects us," said Lieutenant Colonel Paddy Ankunda, spokesperson for the Uganda mediation team.

Congolese and rebel negotiators failed to agree on the wording of the document meant to cap the army's swift military gains that led to M23 last week abandoning its uprising in Congo's mineral-rich border zone with Rwanda and Uganda.

"What are we supposed to sign? No country in history has signed an agreement with a movement that has declared its own dissolution," said Lambert Mende, a spokesman for Democratic Republic of Congo's government.

Mende said Kinshasa wanted the rebels to pledge not to take up arms again but Uganda was blocking this. "Uganda seems now to be acting as part of the conflict. It has interests in M23."

Uganda and Rwanda have both been accused by UN experts of backing M23, the latest in a series of uprisings led by Congolese Tutsi fighters in the east, which is rich in gold, diamonds and other minerals. Both countries deny the charges.

Uganda's lead mediator, Defence Minister Chrispus Kiyonga, said both sides had concluded negotiations over the 11-point document on 3 November before rebels laid down arms.

A second source close to the peace talks said the Kinshasa and M23 delegations had both initialled each page.

The accord will address issues such as amnesty - for the act of rebellion, though not for crimes against humanity. That will almost certainly mean no amnesty for Makenga.

It is also expected to tackle some of the root causes of the unrest, including the return of stolen property and issues surrounding the return of Tutsi refugees to Congo.