The eleven countries in the Great Lakes region of Africa have been invited to sign a UN-mediated peace agreement this weekend meant to end the interminable cycles of violence that have been plaguing the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo for many years.
Leaders from the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) had originally been expected to sign the deal on January 29 on the sidelines of the African Union summit in Addis Ababa. But UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon delayed the signing over "procedural issues."
UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said on Friday that Ban will make a new effort to get the accord signed in Addis Ababa on Sunday.
The leaders of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Burundi, the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, Rwanda, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia have been invited, Nesirky stated.
The United Nations, the African Union, the ICGLR, and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) would act as "co-guarantors," the UN spokesman added.
Meeting in the Mozambican capital Maputo on February 8, ICGLR leaders approved the deployment of a 4,000-strong peacekeeping force, which would come from SADC countries, to Congo.
The force will be able to combat "whoever is trying to destabilize the situation in the eastern part of Congo," SADC Secretary General Tomaz Salomao said after the meeting.
The force would be contained within the existing UN peacekeeping force in Congo, known as MONUSCO -- the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In July 2012, Congolese President Joseph Kabila and Rwandan President Paul Kagame, along with other leaders from the Great Lakes region, signed an accord that called for the creation of a neutral international military force to combat rebels in the provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu in the eastern Congo.
The agreement also called for the Great Lakes leaders to work with the African Union and the United Nations "for an immediate establishment of a neutral international force to eradicate M23, FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda), and all other negative forces in eastern DRC, and patrol and secure the border zones."
The March 23 movement (M23) rebels defected from the Congolese army in April 2012 in protest over alleged mistreatment in the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC). They had previously been integrated into the Congolese army under a peace deal signed in 2009.
Since early May 2012, nearly 3 million people have fled their homes in the eastern Congo. About 2.5 million have resettled in Congo, but more than 460,000 have crossed into neighboring Rwanda and Uganda.
Congo has faced numerous problems over the past few decades, such as grinding poverty, crumbling infrastructure, and a war in the east of the country that has dragged on since 1998 and left over 5.5 million people dead.