UNITED NATIONS: Eleven African countries have been invited to sign a UN-brokered accord this weekend aiming to end more than two decades of conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the UN spokesman said Friday.
UN leader Ban Ki-moon will make a new bid to get the accord signed in Addis Ababa on Sunday. If successful the agreement could lead to creation of a special UN 'intervention brigade' in eastern DR Congo to combat rebel groups as well as new political efforts.
UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said the leaders of DR Congo, Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia had been invited. Several presidents are expected to attend.
The United Nations, the African Union, the 11-country International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and the 14-member Southern African Development Community (SADC) would act as "co-guarantors", Nesirky added.
A first attempt to get the agreement signed last month was called off at the last minute.
The United Nations has been working on the new accord since the M23 rebellion last year again focused international attention on strife in mineral-rich eastern DR Congo.
The mutineers, who UN experts have said have been backed by neighboring Rwanda and Uganda, briefly took Goma, the main city in the huge region, brushing aside the weak DR Congo army.
Nesirky said the accord will build on efforts by regional groups and the UN in recent years.
The accord will commit the DR Congo government to carry out reforms to its army and security forces and seek to extend its authority across the huge, largely lawless country, diplomats said. The other countries will in turn commit not to interfere in the affairs of their neighbors, the diplomats added.
"What's new is that it includes oversight mechanisms at the national, regional and international levels to support and oversee the implementation of the commitments made," Nesirky said.
The United Nations, African Union, African Development Bank and World Bank will monitor the DR Congo government efforts, the UN spokesman said.
Under the deal, Ban is to name a high-ranking special envoy for the Great Lakes region to guide the political efforts to bring lasting peace.
Diplomats said the UN had considered approaching former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, former British prime minister Tony Blair and former African Union commission chairman Jean Ping. But the world body has been unable to get a consensus behind any name.
Nesirky said only that Ban would announce the envoy "soon".
Millions have died in the Great Lakes wars of the 1990s and uprisings in eastern DR Congo, which have frequently brought accusations of foreign involvement.
UN experts have said Rwanda and Uganda backed the M23 rebels who still control a huge chunk of territory in DR Congo's North Kivu province. Rwanda strongly denies the charge with its diplomats saying the country has been made a "scapegoat" for troubles in DR Congo. Uganda has also strongly rejected the charges.
The United Nations wants to toughen the mandate of its peacekeeping force in DR Congo and introduce surveillance drones to monitor the frontier in coming months.
It wants to send a 2,500 strong "intervention brigade" to eastern DR Congo to seek to contain M23 and other armed groups who have brought chaos and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.