The Democratic Republic of Congo government and the M23 rebel movement refused to sign the highly-anticipated peace deal in Entebbe on Monday because of a disagreement over wording.
Following on-and-off dialogue in Kampala over the last couple of months, the M23 who were decisively defeated last week had been expected to sign a peace agreement with the Congolese government at State House in Entebbe on Monday, but the signing didn’t materialise.
Addressing the media afterwards, Bertrand Bisimwa, the leader of the M23 rebel movement, said only a political solution would bring peace to DR Congo.
Bisimwa’s comments came after Kinshasa, represented by its Foreign Affairs minister, Raymond Tshibanda, insisted that it would sign a “declaration” and not a peace agreement as M23 were militarily defeated.
But Bisimwa said it was wrong for the DRC government to insist on a military victory over M23, arguing that if that was the spirit, then there is no need to sign any agreement.
“As you know, we agreed with the government on November 4 that the document…is an agreement, and the government would like to change it to a declaration, and we didn’t agree to that,” he told Voice of America.
Although its military leader, Sultani Makenga, recently surrendered to the Ugandan army, UPDF, the M23 now claim they were not defeated as such but, rather, agreed to a ceasefire on November 4 in the interest of peace.
“We stopped our rebellion. We made a declaration about it and we can’t come back again on it. I think now we are ready to continue toward a political solution because we decided to resolve our problems by the political way and not the military way,” Bisimwa said.
Unlike Bisimwa, Foreign Affairs minister Tshibanda declined to speak to the media after the failed event.
The signing ceremony had been scheduled for 4pm, with President Museveni to preside. Bisimwa was on hand for the M23, while Tshibanda represented Kinshasa.
According to a statement from the Uganda Media Centre, the Kinshasa delegation declined to enter the conference room where the signing ceremony was to be conducted.
Our sources indicate that Tshibanda insisted on the wording of the document changing from a peace agreement to a declaration of peace. Uganda’s Defence minister Dr Crispus Kiyonga, the facilitator, took Tshibanda’s position to the M23 delegation but the latter rejected it.
Then the Kinshasa delegation asked Kiyonga for, and was given the document that was set to be signed, saying they wanted to study it further. As the bargaining continued, President Museveni abandoned the event, leaving it in the hands of Vice President Edward Sekandi.
The Media Centre statement signed by its Executive Director Ofwono Opondo says Ssekandi was given instructions to wait until a deal was in place. With no end in sight, Ssekandi at 9:30pm called off the signing ceremony indefinitely.
He announced that both delegations would remain in contact with Dr Kiyonga, the facilitator, who would advise on a new date for the signing ceremony. Envoys from the United Nations, African Union, Europe and the United States expressed their disappointment in a statement to the foreign media.
The statement noted that “the two sides had not expressed any differences on substantive points within the draft document”.
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