KAMPALA — A peace deal expected to be signed Monday between the Congolese government and the M23 rebel group has been delayed indefinitely.
The peace deal would have marked the end of 10 months of negotiations between the rebels and the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where M23 has been waging a 20 month-long insurgency.
Neighboring Uganda has been mediating talks between the two parties since December. But although delegations from both M23 and the Congolese government were in Entebbe for the planned signing ceremony Monday, Ugandan government spokesman Ofwono Opondo says the Congolese government delegation refused to enter the room.
“The DRC delegation did not enter the conference room, saying they wanted to read the final text which was given to them. They have taken more than four and a half hours trying to go through the document, so we can not know what their area of disappointment is. If they are in agreement they will let us know when they are in agreement and when they are ready to sign," said Opondo.
In the meantime, he says, the ceremony has been suspended indefinitely.
Last week, M23 gave up fighting in the eastern DRC, following a military defeat at the hands of the Congolese army and U.N. troops. The group’s leader, Sultani Makenga, is being held in Uganda along with at least 1,500 of his fighters who crossed the border from the DRC last week.
M23 had earlier asked for amnesty for its leaders, including Makenga, while the Congolese government wants him returned to the DRC to stand trial. The issue was expected to be a serious stumbling block to a peace agreement, although it is not clear whether it contributed to Monday’s delay.