DRC and Mali unrest overshadows AU summit talks

United Nations (UN) secretary general Ban Ki-moon urged leaders from Africa's Great Lakes region to sign an agreement aimed at ending recurrent unrest in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where the M23 rebels control swathes of mineral-rich territory.

But a signing ceremony for the deal – the details of which have not been made public – was cancelled on Monday morning just 30 minutes before it was due to take place. "This is a very complex issue, talks are still continuing," said Eri Kaneko, a spokesperson for Ban, without giving further details.

The presidents of Rwanda and Uganda – which UN experts have accused of backing the M23, a charge both governments deny – as well as DRC, Angola, Burundi, DRC, South Africa and Tanzania had been expected to sign the deal.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame and his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni both refused to comment on the proposed deal, holding a discreet meeting on Monday on the sidelines of the African Union (AU) summit.

Ban urged regional leaders at the opening of the AU summit on Sunday to "endorse a Peace Security and Cooperation Framework to address the structural causes of the recurring cycles of violence" in the region.

Mali response criticised
The latest cycle of unrest in eastern DRC erupted last year. The rebels seized the key eastern city of Goma in November before pulling out 12 days later. Peace talks have been held in Uganda, but have so far made little headway.

Other discussions at the AU summit – the second and final day of the 54-member bloc's bi-annual meeting – focused on Mali, including the scaling-up of African troops to help the Malian army battle Islamist militants who seized the country's vast desert north in April last year.

On Sunday, outgoing AU chairperson Thomas Boni Yayi, the president of Benin, told fellow leaders their response to conflict in Mali had been too slow, and thanked France, the country's former colonial ruler, for taking the lead in its military intervention there.

France's action, launched on January 11 after extremists seized a central town and threatened to advance on the capital, was something "we should have done a long time ago to defend a member country", he said, asking how it was "that Africa, despite having the means to defend itself, continued to wait".

He appealed for "further commitment … for the financing of all the forces". The UN chief also told the summit he was "determined to do everything to help the people of Mali", but urged the government to ensure "an inclusive political process".

After the summit, African leaders are expected to stay behind for a donor conference on Tuesday to drum up support for the African-led International Support Mission to Mali.

Bloody clashes
On Friday, the AU security council gave member states one week to commit troops to the force. Tensions between Sudan and newly-independent South Sudan and efforts to build peace in chronically unstable Somalia have also been discussed at the summit.

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir and his northern counterpart Omar al-Bashir met again on Sunday after face-to-face talks on Friday ahead of the summit, but officials said no progress had been made.

On Somalia, Ban said he welcomed the seizure of a string of key towns from Islamist insurgents by AU troops there, saying it had "opened space for peace-building".

The country's al-Qaeda-linked Shebab militants have been losing ground to a 17 000-strong AU force and Ethiopian troops who invaded in 2011 from the west. – Sapa-AFP

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.


Stella set to retain her perks

Communication minister will keep Cabinet perks during her two months of special leave

Not a sweet deal, Mister

Mister Sweet workers say they will not risk their health, and the lives of others, to continue producing and packaging confectionaries

Covid-19 grounds Nigeria’s medical tourists

The country’s elites, including the president, travelled abroad for treatment but now they must use the country’s neglected health system

Nehawu launches urgent court bid over protective gear for health...

The health workers’ union says the government has rebuffed its attempts to meet about mitigating risks to workers

Press Releases

Rahima Moosa Hospital nursing college introduces no-touch facial recognition access system

The new system allows the hospital to enrol people’s faces immediately, using artificial intelligence, and integrates easily with existing access control infrastructure, including card readers and biometrics

Everyone’s talking about it. Even Kentucky

Earlier this year South African fried chicken fast-food chain, Chicken Licken®, launched a campaign for their wallet-friendly EasyBucks® meals, based on the idea of ‘Everyone’s talking about it.’

New energy mix on the cards

REI4P already has and will continue to yield thousands of employment opportunities

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world