AFRICANGLOBE – A peace, security and cooperation framework agreement for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Great Lakes region was signed in Ethiopia at the weekend raising hopes of a return to peace in the region.
The region has not known peace since mutinous March 23 (M23) rebels, a breakaway group from the Congolese army led by former Rwandan army officer, Bosco Ntaganda, started a campaign of violence in May last year.
At least 800,000 people have been displaced by the violence.
The agreement was signed at the African Union (AU) headquarters in Addis Ababa on Sunday.
United Nations experts have accused Rwanda of backing the M23, which has seized several mines in Eastern DRC saying it wants to better the living standards of Congolese people.
The International Criminal Court has also accused the rebel group of recruiting child soldiers.
Late last year, the UN Security Council imposed an arms embargo on M23 and Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebels.
It also imposed a travel ban and assets freeze on top M23 officials Lieutenant Colonel Eric Badege and Jean-Marie Runiga.
A fragile ceasefire that had been in place since August last year broke down leading to the seizure of the town of Goma by the rebels in late November.
Sunday’s agreement was signed by the DRC, Angola, Republic of Congo, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Central African Republic (CAR), Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan and Zambia.
UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon who attended the signing ceremony hailed the framework saying it marked a new milestone for the Democratic Republic of Congo and the region.
“Together with leaders of the region, we have worked to find a way to break the pattern that has led to the recurring cycles of violence and collectively address the underlying causes of the conflict,” he said.
He said the framework outlined national and regional commitments which will contribute to addressing the underlying causes of the conflict in eastern DRC.
“We can only put an end to recurring cycles of violence through an innovative approach addressing the broader security situation with all relevant partners,” Ban said.
Talks between delegations from the DR Congo’s government and M23 began early December 2012 in Kampala, Uganda.