DR Congo: African army needed to fight rebels, ministers say
A regional force should be created to help fight rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, African foreign ministers have agreed.
The deal was made at an African Union meeting where the ministers noted there was little trust in the 19,000-strong UN force currently in DR Congo.
A recent army mutiny in the east has displaced many thousands of people.
In a BBC interview, Rwanda's leader Paul Kagame reiterated that his country was not backing the uprising.
Eastern DR Congo has been plagued by fighting since 1994 when more than a million Rwandan ethnic Hutus crossed the border following the genocide in which some 800,000 people - mostly Tutsis - died.
Rwanda has twice invaded its much larger neighbour, saying it was trying to take action against Hutu rebels based in DR Congo. Uganda also sent troops into DR Congo during the 1997-2003 conflict.'Eradicate militias'
- April-June 1994: Genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda
- June 1994: Paul Kagame's Tutsi rebels take power in Rwanda, Hutu fighters flee into Zaire (DR Congo)
- Rwanda's army enters eastern Zaire to pursue Hutu fighters
- 1997: Laurent Kabila's AFDL, backed by Rwanda, takes power in Kinshasa
- 1998: Rwanda accuses Kabila of not acting against Hutu rebels and tries to topple him, sparking five years of conflict
- 2003: War officially ends but Hutu and Tutsi militias continue to clash in eastern DR Congo
- 2008: Tutsi-led CNDP rebels march on North Kivu capital, Goma - 250,000 people flee
- 2009: Rwanda and DR Congo agree peace deal and CNDP integrated into Congolese army
- 2012: Mutiny led by former CNDP leader Bosco "Terminator" Ntaganda
The BBC's Noel Mwakugu in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa - where the African Union headquarters is based - says the foreign ministers felt an independent African military force might be a solution to the instability in eastern DR Congo, where various armed groups tend to vie for control over mineral-rich territory.
According to the deal seen by the Reuters news agency, the neutral force would eradicate the newly created rebel group of army mutineers, the ethnic Hutu FDLR militia - some of whose leaders participated in the Rwandan genocide - and "all other negative forces" in eastern DR Congo.
"No support should be given to any negative force," the document said.
The rebels who took up arms in April named themselves "M23" after a failed peace agreement signed with DR Congo's government on 23 March three years ago.
Many of them are ethnic Tutsi - like the majority of Rwanda's leadership - and a recent UN report accused Rwanda of backing the rebels.
Earlier this week, the UN envoy to DR Congo said the mutineers were now wearing a new uniform, which indicated that they had the backing of a "foreign country".
"We are not connected at all with the cause of the uprising of M23. We are not supporting them. We do not intend to because we don't know what they are about or what they want," Mr Kagame told BBC's Hardtalk programme.
"We are not involved at all and it wouldn't make sense because for us our relationship with the [DR] Congo before all of this happened was actually very good and we were working together to eliminate the problem that has existed between our two countries."
The Rwandan president said some people had not been happy that Rwanda was working with the Congolese and had tried to undermine this.
"It is more of an internal problem of the [DR] Congo and a failure thereof in terms of governance and how to resolve their own problems that has created this issue," Mr Kagame said.
On Wednesday, the M23 launched its political wing, making the same points and also denying any connection to Rwanda.
The rebels have withdrawn from several towns they took over the weekend, but threatened to retake them and the regional capital city of Goma should civilians perceived to be aligned to them continue to be attacked and harassed.
"We have pulled out of those towns, our mission is not to control them. What we want is that the Congolese government sit down at the negotiating table," M23 spokesman Vianney Kazarama told the AFP news agency.
Meanwhile, the BBC has confirmed that UN and Congolese army gunships have been attacking the mutineers' positions in Rumangabo about 40km (25 miles) north of Goma.
An estimated 200,000 people have fled their homes since April, with about 20,000 crossing the border into Uganda and Rwanda.