Peace accord signed in Congo

Updated 24 February 2013
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Peace accord signed in Congo

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia: Eleven African countries signed a United Nations-drafted peace deal yesterday to stabilize the troubled Central African country of Congo, where rebels allegedly backed by neighboring countries last year threatened to oust the government.
Opening the agreement-signing meeting at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said peace, security and cooperation framework for Congo would bring stability to the region.
“The signing ceremony is a significant even in itself. But it is only the beginning of a comprehensive approach that will require sustained engagement. The framework before you outlines commitments and oversight mechanisms which aim at addressing key national and regional issues,” Ban said in his speech.
Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Central African Republic, Angola, Uganda, South Sudan, South Africa, Tanzania, and the Republic of Congo signed the accord.
Congo’s neighbors collectively promised to not interfere in the internal affairs of the Congo. They also agreed to not tolerate or support armed groups. A UN report last year said that Rwanda and Uganda helped aid M23 rebels inside Congo. The two countries denied the allegations.
Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame was present at the signing and said the agreement is a new opportunity for Congo.
“The framework recognizes that a holistic approach that addresses the multifaceted root causes is the only way to end instability. Any meaningful contribution toward lasting peace in the DRC and the Great Lake’s region has to abandon the self-defeating practice of selectivity in both memory and responsibility regarding the known, long standing causes of recurring conflict,” said Kagame.
The UN says Congo suffers from persistent violence by both local and foreign armed groups that use rape as a weapon. The conflict has displaced nearly 2 million people. The UN said it will undertake a review of the its peacekeeping force in Congo, known as MONUSCO, to better help the country’s government address security challenges. Ban said he would issue a special report on Congo and the Great Lakes region in coming days.
South African President Jacob Zuma welcomed the proposal to send more troops to Congo. But he said Congo’s government needs to undertake “far-reaching reforms” for a lasting solution.
“A heavy burden of responsibility falls on the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and its neighbors. Theirs is the historic task of freeing the people of the DRC and the region from tortuous history of conflict and instability, and to introduce a new future offering democracy, peace, stability progress and prosperity,” said Zuma.
Under the new agreement the Congolese government agreed to fast-track security sector reform, particularly within its army and police, and to consolidate state authority in eastern parts of the country. It pledged to prevent armed groups from destabilizing neighboring countries.
Congo President Joseph Kabila also vowed to advance decentralization and expand social services across the nation. The deal calls for Kabila to soon put in place a national oversight mechanism in order to oversee the implementations of the commitments. The UN, AU, African Development Bank and other international groups have agreed to support the effort.
An agreement signing was canceled last month at the margins of the African Union summit at the last minute, and Ban at the time blamed “procedural issues” for the delay. Ban on Sunday proposed that the leaders should meet twice a year, at the margins of the AU and UN summits, to review the deal’s progress.


UN Security Council meets over Syria in remote Swedish farmhouse

Updated 18 min 17 sec ago
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UN Security Council meets over Syria in remote Swedish farmhouse

BACKARA- SWEDEN: The UN Security Council met in a secluded farmhouse on the southern tip of Sweden on Saturday in a bid to overcome deep divisions over how to end the war in Syria.
In a first for the Council, which normally holds its annual brainstorming session in upstate New York, the 15 ambassadors and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres were this year invited to hold an informal meeting in Backakra by Sweden, a non-permanent member of the body.
The United Nations’ special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, is expected on Sunday.
The farmhouse is the summer residence of Dag Hammarskjold, the United Nations’ second secretary-general who died in a plane crash in Africa in 1961.
Situated in the heart of a nature reserve, just a stone’s throw from the Baltic Sea, the farmhouse consists of four buildings around a courtyard and has been completely renovated in recent years.
The southern wing serves as the summer residence for the Swedish Academy which awards the Nobel Literature Prize.
With both New York and Damascus thousands of kilometers away, the Council is exploring “the means to strengthen and make more effective United Nations peacekeeping missions,” the Swedish government said.
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom welcomed the decision to hold the meeting in Sweden, “where there is a long tradition of peaceful conflict prevention and resolution.”
But as she arrived in Backakra on Saturday morning she warned against being too hopeful the Syrian issue would be resolved over the weekend.
“Hopefully there will be some new ideas on the table and I think it’ll be on those tracks: the humanitarian situation, the chemical weapons,” she said.
But “not even the beautiful settings like these can solve all the problems,” the minister added.
The country’s deputy UN Ambassador Carl Skau said the idea was to foster dialogue and “relaunch momentum” with “humility and patience,” a week after the air strikes by France, Britain and the United States against the Syrian regime.
“It’s important for the council’s credibility,” Skau told reporters in New York.
While the war in Syria is not the only topic of the deliberations, it is high up on the agenda because it was an issue that divided council members deeply in recent months.
Skau said Backakra was a “fitting and inspiring venue” to reconnect with the power of diplomacy.
“It’s a place to roll up our sleeves, take off our jackets and ties and come up with some real and meaningful ways forward,” he said.