The African Union (AU) is monitoring security in the Democratic Republic of Congo following the breakdown of a peace deal between the government and the M23 rebels, according to Erastus Mwencha, deputy AU chairman.
He expressed concern over the security situation in the north eastern part of the DRC, where the recent clashes between UN-backed government troops (FARDC) and the M23 left scores dead and thousands internally displaced.
“It is really a matter of concern that with the hopes that have been created, the agreement would have been signed. This is perhaps something that both parties concerned should consider going back to the table for the sake of the people, for the sake of women, [and] children who have suffered in that part of Africa,” said Mwencha. “The people and the leaders themselves are concerned that this conflict has gone for far too long, and the sooner we can reach this agreement, the better.
Last week, envoys from the AU, the United Nations, Europe and the United States expressed regret that an agreement was not signed. In a statement, the envoys said the two sides have not expressed any differences on substantive points within the draft document.
The M23 announced it was laying down its arms, after the Congolese army seized the last of the group's strongholds in Congo’s North Kivu province.
Mwencha said the AU special envoy for the Great Lakes region is also monitoring the ongoing peace talks in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, to find ways of peacefully ending the conflict and restoring peace and stability.
“We are very much concerned, and this concern of course is not just simply that the agreement has not been reached, but we missed many opportunities, time and again, while people are suffering and while the economy continues to suffer, and while there are crimes that need to be pursued,” said Mwencha.
Parts of DRC’s east have seen years of conflict between the government’s army, FARDC and various rebel groups, who compete for control over the area’s rich mines and natural resources.
Mwencha said the AU is working with its international partners to help the government in Kinshasa defeat the various armed groups as well as maintain security and its territorial integrity.
“We hope that peace would be secured, and that peace will require commitment of the parties concerned to enable the region [to] focus on development,” said Mwencha.