New Vision ( Uganda ) reports
Congo, M23 rebels peace signing delayed
The leader of the DRC delegation Raymond Tshibanda arrives at State House Entebbe with delegation for peace pact with M23 rebels. PHOTO BY PETER BUSOMOKE newvision
A ceremony to formally end Congo's bloodiest conflict in a decade was delayed on Monday by an 11th-hour spat between the government and M23 rebels over whether the document should be entitled a peace agreement or a vaguer declaration.
I blogged yesterday that Kinshasa holds all the cards, the remnants of M23 will have to comply with Congolese wishes, that is the reality when you lose. I think the Congolese position is remarkably generous, this document should include in the title the words " unconditional surrender. "
M23 gave up their 20-month insurgency last week after the Democratic Republic of Congo's army, backed by a U.N. force, routed them from their last hilltop hideouts along the eastern border with Rwanda and Uganda.
Other rebels still roam the vast country and stability remains a distant prospect in a region with rich underground deposits of gold, diamonds and other precious minerals.
The deal between the Kinshasa government and M23 was due to be signed in the Ugandan city of Entebbe at 6 p.m. (1500 GMT) but was suddenly delayed, with no one knowing whether the hold-up would last for hours or days.
I suspect the Congolese government is using the delay as a means of showing their displeasure with Uganda's decision to grant asylum to the M23 leadership. At the end of the day the whole exercise serves only to enhance Museveni's prestige on the international stage.
"The stumbling point is the parties cannot agree on whether they are signing a peace agreement or a declaration. They agree on the content, but not the title. The Congolese government says it came here to sign a declaration," Uganda's junior foreign affairs minister, Okello Oryem, told Reuters.
The Congolese government might be saying it came to sign a declaration and the title of that declaration will be whatever the Congolese government wants it to be. For my money the Kinshasa is sending a very clear message.
Ugandan government spokesman Ofwono Opondo said "there's no deal tonight", but could not say when it would happen.
I suspect it will happen when there is very little or no political capital or kudos available to Uganda by the signing.
Congo government spokesman Lambert Mende said Kinshasa was willing to sign a document but not one called a peace deal. "It's as if M23 still exists, it's as if it is legitimating them despite them being a negative force," he said.
I bet he said it with a straight face as well. Something I couldn't have done.
"We are ready to sign a declaration of engagement between the government and former members of the rebel group known as M23," he said in Kinshasa. Bertrand Bisimwa, the head of the M23 political wing, declined to comment.
It may of registered with Bisimwa that he is the former head of the political wing of the former rebel group M23. It might also have occurred to him that he has failed catastrophically since assuming the presidency of M23 after the factional fighting earlier this year.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and envoys from the African Union and M23 as well as Western diplomats waited for more than two hours for the ceremony to start but the Congolese government delegation did not enter the room.
I have no idea if Museveni is attending CHOGM ( Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting ) but if he is he will have to leave fairly soon. It is an event he would seem unlikely to miss, that may give us an indication of when an agreement may be signed.
All in all I rather suspect Lambert Mende has out thought and out manouvered everyone and with the added bonus of making all the VIP's in Kampala look like a bunch of clowns. Take a bow that man.