* Control over new force not the only a sticking point
* Existing U.N. force in Congo heavily criticised
* Congo government/rebel peace talks have stalled
By Richard Lough
ADDIS ABABA, Jan 28 African leaders failed on
Monday to sign a U.N.-mediated peace deal aimed at ending two
decades of conflict in eastern Congo, said a senior Congolese
diplomat, who pointed to concerns over who would command a new
regional military force.
The agreement was to include the deployment of several
thousand extra soldiers to tackle armed militias in the
mineral-rich eastern region. The brigade would fight under the
banner of the U.N.'s MONUSCO peacekeeping force.
Diplomats at an African Union summit in Ethiopia said the
troops would come from the Southern Africa Development Community
(SADC), notably Tanzania.
Leaders from the Great Lakes region had originally been
expected to sign the deal on Monday morning.
Seraphin Ngwej, a senior diplomatic advisor to Congolese
President Joseph Kabila, said SADC members had raised questions
over command and control of the intervention force - SADC or
"(SADC) wants assurances the brigade can do what they want
it to do," said a diplomatic source who declined to be named.
A fresh rebellion launched last year in Congo's east, a
region where ethic tensions and vast mineral deposits have
fuelled a series of cross-border wars - raised fears of another
conflict in the borderlands zone.
U.N. LINKS NEIGHOURS TO REBELS
The M23 rebel movement swept across Congo's North Kivu
province and in November seized the provincial capital of Goma,
a city of 1 million people. The rebels later left the city to
pave the way for peace talks.
The group is named after a March 23, 2009 peace deal that
integrated Tutsi-dominated rebels into Congo's army, but which
they say the government violated. The rebels are now also
demanding wide ranging political reforms. ž
MONUSCO was widely criticised for failing to halt the
rebels' southern advance on Goma. The force said its helicopters
had fired hundreds of rockets but were unable to beat back the
swelling ranks of the rebels as government forces fled.
U.N. officials say the new intervention brigade's mandate
would be more robust than MONUSCO's.
Regional tensions escalated last year when a U.N. group of
experts reported Rwanda and Uganda were both supporting the M23
rebellion. Both countries have denied involvement.
A second diplomat said the obstacles blocking the Congo
peace deal were broader than just the intervention force. He
gave no further details.
Separate peace talks between the Kinshasa government and M23
rebels hosted by Uganda have stalled.
Diplomats at the AU summit said it was unclear whether the
delays to the deal would hold up a recommendation by U.N.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the U.N. Security Council the
new force be deployed.
Ngwej said that under the proposed regional agreement the
Kinshasa government would commit to security sector reforms,
including the army.