Congo says to sign peace deal with M23 rebels on Monday

PARIS Fri Nov 8, 2013 10:26am EST

An army officer stands guards outside an enclosure filled with M23 rebel fighters who have surrendered to Uganda's government at Rugwerero village in Kisoro district, 489km (293 miles) west from Uganda capital Kampala November 8, 2013. REUTERS/James Akena

An army officer stands guards outside an enclosure filled with M23 rebel fighters who have surrendered to Uganda's government at Rugwerero village in Kisoro district, 489km (293 miles) west from Uganda capital Kampala November 8, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/James Akena

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PARIS (Reuters) - Democratic Republic of Congo will sign a peace deal on Monday with the M23 rebel group that laid down its arms this week after a string of military defeats, Congo's Foreign Minister Raymond Tshibanda told Reuters on Friday.

The Tutsi-led M23, the most important rebel movement in lawless eastern Congo, announced on Tuesday it would disband after a 20-month uprising that displaced some 800,000 people. A two-week U.N.-backed army offensive had dislodged M23 from its last hilltop strongholds near the Rwandan and Ugandan borders.

M23's announcement raised hope for greater stability after two decades of violence in eastern Congo partly motivated by ethnic tensions and combat over rich mineral deposits in which millions of people have died.

"It was decided one day after the M23 declaration renouncing the rebellion that the government would give them five days before the signing," Tshibanda said on a visit to Paris. "Those five days end on Monday, so the signing is on Monday."

"This signature is important because it in essence focuses on M23 going into barracks, disarming and demobilizing, and to resolve other problems that were discussed in talks we previously held," he said, referring to long-running negotiations in the Ugandan capital Kampala.

A Ugandan government spokesman said the signing would take place in Kampala. African Union and U.N. representatives were expected to attend, Ofwono Opondo said.

MAKENGA MUST ANSWER FOR CRIMES

Congolese officials have said the government would sign a declaration including 11 clauses agreed during talks, rather than a peace agreement, because M23 has already been militarily defeated and disbanded.

Tshibanda said the Congolese government had received confirmation from Ugandan authorities that they had detained M23's military chief Sultani Makenga after he fled eastern Congo.

"Mr Makenga must answer for the crimes he has committed. In the discussions in Kampala it was clear there would be no amnesty for war crimes," he said.

The Congolese government would now target other foreign rebel groups operating in the east of its territory, Tshibanda said. He singled out the Rwandan Hutu FDLR movement, Burundi's FNL and the Ugandan Islamist movement ADF-NALU.

"All groups are targeted because we have said that this time we must sign the death certificate of all these groups, these negative forces to the east of our country," he said.

(Writing by Daniel Flynn; editing by Ralph Boulton)

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