As noted earlier here and explained in more detail in a good piece over at War is Boring, the announcement by DRC authorities that the M23 rebel group had suffered military defeat did not necessarily carry much weight for the future of Africa’s Great Lakes region. This has turned out very quickly to more than mere idle speculation as Ugandan mediators said today that it appeared that a peace deal that had planned to be signed today between DRC authorities and M23 rebels has apparently been postponed indefinitely.
Uganda, which has been mediating between the two groups since last December, said that while the DRC delegation was in Entebbe to sign the agreement, they had requested to read the final text of the agreement before entering the conference room for the signing. The ceremony was suspended indefinitely after the DRC contingent spent over four hours going over the text. Ugandan officials said the they conferred in private so it was unclear what specific issues with the text there might be.
It is not too hard to imagine a possible complaints the DRC delegation may have had. The biggest is probably the fate of M23 members who have fled into Uganda. Possible amnesty or reintegration of certain members of the M23 group had already been a major stumbling block in negotiations. On Friday, the Ugandan government made it clear it would not deport fleeing M23 members back to the DRC. While Ugandan officials made it clear that the fate of these individuals would have to be a component of any peace deal, it also said that those not wishing to return to the DRC would not be forcibly repatriated and would instead be turned over to UN agencies to see whether they qualified for refugee status. This no doubt is compounded by previous accusations of Uganda actively supporting the M23 rebellion along with Rwanda.
UPDATE (11/12/13): The DRC’s Information Minister Lambert Mende has effectively confirmed the above suspicions by accusing the Ugandans as acting like a party to the conflict. The DRC also wanted the agreement to be called a “declaration” rather than an “accord” or “peace agreement” as sought by the Ugandans and M23. The DRC is of the view that calling it a peace agreement gives the text different weight and M23 increased legitimacy, despite that fact that M23’s leadership had already unilaterally called for an end to its armed struggle in DRC. In response, Ugandan authorities said that without an agreement M23 could still regroup. Uganda’s Deputy Foreign Minister Okello Oryem added that M23 chief Sultani Makenga, who fled to Uganda, was not a prisoner and that his status would only be resolved in an agreement between the DRC and the rebel group. Rwanda, also accused of having support M23 in DRC, has been notably silent on the events.