DR Congo refuses to sign M23 'accord' in Kampala

M23 fighters in Uganda
Image caption Hundreds of M23 fighters surrendered last week

The Democratic Republic of Congo has refused to sign a deal with the rebels it defeated last week, the country's information minister has said.

Lambert Mende said the title of the Ugandan-mediated document was the problem, not its contents.

It should be called a declaration not an accord as that gave too much credibility to the rebels, he said.

Last week, the M23 rebel group ended its 18-month insurgency in eastern DR Congo and surrendered.

The two sides had been due to sign the document in the Ugandan capital, Kampala.

'Cooling off' period

But Mr Mende told the BBC's Focus on Africa radio programme that DR Congo's delegation had now left the talks in Kampala.

He said the Ugandan mediators had refused to accede to DR Congo's request that the document be titled "a declaration".

By calling the document an agreement or an accord, "they are trying to give credibility to criminals", the minister told the BBC.

"You sign an agreement with a body that is legitimate and that exists. The M23 is not legitimate: on the contrary it is a criminal group - labelled as such by the international community.

It was also a question of the government's credibility in the eyes of the Congolese people - it could not be seen to be signing an agreement on an equal footing with "criminals", Mr Mende said.

"Militarily, we have finished M23 and what is more important for us is to maintain our credibility towards the Congolese people," he said.

Okello Oryem, Uganda's junior foreign affairs minister, did not comment on the accusations, but said he expected it would take a few more days before any deal to be signed, the Reuters news agency reports.

The BBC's Catherine Byaruhanga in Kampala says some Congolese security officials and other delegates are still in Kampala.

Mr Mende said there were 11 points in the document on which both sides agreed.

"We didn't go to Kampala to negotiate, we went to hear the grievances of our compatriots of M23," he said.

The UN special envoy to DR Congo, Martin Kobler, told Focus on Africa that he was confident the talks would resume after a "cooling off" period.

While the M23 had been defeated, a political solution was still required, he said.

"It's the military end of the M23 but the political problem of the M23 doesn't go away," Mr Kobler added.

At least 800,000 people fled their homes after the M23 took up arms in April 2012.

Eastern DR Congo has been wracked by conflict since 1994, when Hutu militias fled across the border from Rwanda after carrying out a genocide against Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

According the charity Oxfam, there are currently more than 30 other groups are operating in the east.

Understanding DR Congo

Image caption Eastern DR Congo is awash with a variety of different rebel groups. This is a snapshot of their locations in late 2012. Some have come from neighbouring countries, while others have formed as self-defence groups. Many are taking advantage of the lack of a strong state to seize control of the area's mineral riches.
Image caption The Democratic Republic of Congo covers 2,344,858 square km of land in the centre of Africa, making it the 12th largest country in the world.
Image caption With an estimated population of 75.5 million, DR Congo is the fourth most populous country in Africa. Some 35% of the population live in cities and the capital Kinshasa is by far the largest, with more than 8 million inhabitants. DR Congo has around 200 ethnic identities with the majority of people belonging to the Kongo, Luba and Mongo groups.
Image caption DR Congo has abundant mineral wealth. It has more than 70% of the world's coltan, used to make vital components of mobile phones, 30% of the planet's diamond reserves and vast deposits of cobalt, copper and bauxite. This wealth however has attracted looters and fuelled the country's civil war.

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