A peace deal for the troubled eastern DRC stalled on Monday, overshadowing an African Union summit in Addis Ababa. A signing ceremony was called off just 30 minutes before it was due to take place.
Despite the last-minute cancellation UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon insisted there were no fundamental differences holding back the deal, which is aimed at ending violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The content of the deal has not officially been made public.
Ban told reporters in Addis Ababa there had been a delay because of "procedural issues."
The UN-mediated deal would have included the deployment of several thousand extra troops to the DRC, where swathes of territory are under rebel control.
The presidents of Rwanda and Uganda, as well as the DRC, Angola, Burundi, Republic of Congo, South Africa and Tanzania, had all been expected to sign the deal. Rwanda and the Uganda have been accused by the UN of backing M23 rebels in the DRC, a charge they both deny.
Jean Baptiste Rudaseswa, a lawyer for M23, said he was happy the peace plan had failed so far because it risked destabilizing DRC further.
The thousands of extra troops would have fought under the banner of the UN's MONUSCO peacekeeping force in the DRC. Diplomats at the AU summit in Addis Ababa said the troops would have come from member states of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), notably Tanzania.
Signing after 10 days of consultation
Seraphin Ngwej, senior diplomatic adviser to the DRC President Joseph Kabila, said SADC members had raised questions about the command and control of the new intervention force, whether it should be the hands of SADC or MONUSCO.
Jakkie Cilliers, executive director of the South Africa-based Institute for Security Studies, told DW's Africalink show some southern African countries, particularly South Africa, had objected to the signing on a "procedural basis." They said they had received the document "a few hours beforehand" and that they needed to consult.
"My understanding is that they've agreed to give ten days for internal consultation and then after that the document will be signed," Cilliers added.
But Boubacar Diarra, AU special representative for the Great Lakes region, told DW's French for Africa service that the document that was about to have been signed did not focus extensively on a military intervention force. The force was not the reason for the cancellation of the signing ceremony.
"At issue was rather the creation of a political platform upon which various countries could declare solidarity with the DRC in order to find a solution to this perennial problem," he said in an apparent reference to rebel activity.
He intimated that it was the political component that was receiving attention from regional leaders.
The latest cycle of unrest in eastern DRC erupted last year when M23 rebels seized Goma, a mining hub and provincial capital of North Kivu province, before pulling out 12 days later. Peace talks have been held in Uganda, but have so far made little headway.
The UN Security Council recently authorized the use of drones to monitor the DRC's border with Rwanda.