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Reasons why the DR Congo peace deal flopped

Talks have broken down at African Union summit in Ethiopia on plans to solve crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Last modified: 28 Jan 2013 23:50

Addis Ababa - A peace deal on the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was supposed to be the great outcome of the 20th African Union Summit, which just came to a close.

Instead, leaders are departing the annual meeting in Addis Ababa empty-handed, after last-minute negotiations led by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon failed to convince regional countries South Africa and Tanzania to back the bid.

The international community has been pushing for a new approach to address violence and instability in the DRC ever since the Congolese Army and UN peacekeepers failed to prevent M23 rebels from overtaking Goma late last year.

The UN developed the proposal, which included the creation of a special intervention brigade to take aggressive military action against the rebels, in close collaboration with Rwanda, the DRC, Uganda, and Congo-Brazzaville. The brigade would fall under the command of the UN peacekeeping mission.

Remarkably, leaders of Rwanda and the DRC told us all four were all on board.

But the UN brought the deal late to Burundi, South Africa, Angola, and Tanzania, members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which had developed its own plan.

The SADC and countries of Great Lakes region had earlier proposed a similar military force, but which would fall under African leadership.

South Africa's Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said her country didn't have enough time to study the UN-led proposal. Mapisa-Nqakula told reporters that an Africa-led mission would be more responsive to events on the ground, and said she was disappointed the UN failed to integrate the SADC's ideas into the final agreement.

"A bottom-up approach is always better than a top-down approach," she said.

A UN official who followed the negotiations admitted that the world body had insufficiently consulted the greater region, but added they still hoped for an agreement once members of the SADC had time to study the deal.

"The process was the victim this time, not the substance," they said.

Follow Benedict Moran on Twitter: @benmoran