Congo, M23 rebels make peace but other armed groups still roam

KAMPALA,  (Reuters) – Congo and defeated M23 rebels are to sign a peace deal today to end a 20-month revolt in the east of the vast African nation, where other militias still roam and millions are destitute despite great mineral wealth.

The rebels, who accuse Kinshasa of reneging on an earlier deal with another movement of ethnic Tutsis, gave up their insurrection last week after the Democratic Republic of Congo’s army backed by a U.N. force routed them from their hideouts.

The M23’s military commander, Sultani Makenga, fled and is now being held in neighbouring Uganda, which has been trying with international support to mediate an end to the fighting.

The peace deal is to be signed in Uganda’s capital Kampala.

Makenga’s surrender is a major achievement for Congo as it struggles to impose order and a vindication for the world powers which backed a U.N. force of African troops that was given a strong mandate to intervene to try to break a bloody deadlock.

But analysts are sceptical there will be sustained peace in an area devastated by two decades of conflict that has killed millions and left others in grinding poverty despite underground deposits of gold, diamonds and other valuable minerals.

“I don’t think there is a track record in the DRC of these sort of issues being resolved,” said Brian Dlamini, a country risk analyst for Rand Merchant Bank in South Africa. “The DRC is a country of many countries,” he said. Kinshasa has limited ability to exert its authority over one of Africa’s biggest nations. There is no tarmac road connecting the capital to the main eastern town of Goma.

Signalling broad international support for a deal, a Ugandan official said Monday’s signing would be attended by representatives from the African Union and the United Nations. But regional rivalries could still unsettle any shaky peace.

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