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Africa

DRC ready for 'declaration' on M23 rebel defeat

After pulling out of peace talks, the Democratic Republic of Congo has said it is ready to sign a document formalizing the defeat of the M23 rebels. It accuses mediator Uganda of taking sides.

An army officer stands guard outside an enclosure filled with M23 rebel fighters who have surrendered REUTERS/James Akena

M23 rebel fighters who had surrendered to the Ugandan government under guard in Kisoro district

The Democratic Republic of Congo is now prepared to sign a "declaration" reflecting the defeat of M23 rebels, even though it has withdrawn from Uganda-hosted peace talks.

The DRC and M23 rebels had been due to conclude a deal on Monday (11.11.2013) but Congolese negotiators said they would not sign an agreement with a group their UN-backed army had just defeated.

The DRC said it wanted a simple declaration from the rebels that they would not take up arms again. It also accused Ugandan mediators of taking sides.

"We will not sign anything that is contradictory to our national interests" said DRC government spokesman Lambert Mende.

President of the political wing of the rebel group M23 Bertrand Bisimwa AFP PHOTO / JUNIOR

The M23's Bertrand Bisimwa told DW of "his desire to sign an accord"

The M23 said the document arranging the terms for an end to its 20 month uprising had been agreed upon days in advance.

Uganda denies taking sides

Uganda rejected charges of bias in favor of M23, saying the DRC had made no formal complaint in ten months of mediation.

"Thus we take this accusation by Mr Mende as unfair, unfounded, false and unhelpful to the peace process in Congo," Ofwono Opondo, a spokesman for Uganda's government, told a news conference in Kampala.

U.N. experts have accused both Uganda and Rwanda of backing the M23 rebels.

Both countries deny the charges.

Gaius Kowene, DW's Goma correspondent, said people in the city were very happy that the DRC government did not sign the peace agreement. "People think there are traps in that agreement. That's why they want the government to make sure that they don't sign anything that might harm the country later," he said.

Goma, a city of one million people and capital of North Kivu province, was seized by the rebels on 20 November, 2012. They departed ten days later.

The head of the M23 rebel military forces, Brigadier-General Sultani Makenga (Photo: MICHELE SIBILONI/AFP/Getty Images)

M23 military leader Sultani Makenga whom Uganda says it will not hand over to Kinshasa

The fall of Goma led to a revamping of the DRC's army and the strengthening of the UN force and its mandate in Congo. When peace talks faltered, rebels were driven from all the remaining towns they occupied in recent weeks.

Uganda is holding Sultani Makenga, M23's military commander, and several other rebels who fled the government offensive.

DRC government spokesman Mende complained that Uganda had not handed Makenga over to Congolese authorities, as agreed under a regional agreement signed in Addis Ababa earlier this year.

The head of M23's political wing Bertrand Bisimwa told DW the DRC government was "trying to get rid of M23, to sideline it, rather dealing with the causes of the conflict."

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