'Much to be done' for DR Congo to meet peace deal

Democratic Republic of Congo soldiers sit at the back of a pick-up truck as they head towards the Mbuzi hilltop, near Rutshuru, on November 4, 2013 (AFP Photo/Junior D. Kannah)

Kinshasa (AFP) - The Democratic Republic of Congo still has a long way to go to meet its pledges under a peace deal agreed last year, 10 Congolese NGOs said on Wednesday.

The accord, signed in February 2013 along with 10 other African countries, aimed to bring peace to DR Congo's eastern region after a series of wars with foreign-backed insurgents.

Under the UN-brokered deal, Kinshasa agreed to reform its security forces, judiciary and democratic system after almost three months of talks with regional leaders.

Congolese rebel group M23 agreed to lay down arms in November last year after a 20-month insurgency, raising hopes for peace in a resource-rich region where millions have died in almost two decades of conflict.

But "much remains still to be done" to meet these pledges, according to a report by 10 NGOs, led by Voix des sans-voix (Voice of the Voiceless) one of DR Congo's largest human rights charities.

Kinshasa has made "undue delays... to setting up a legislative and appropriate judicial bodies able to punish serious crimes" according to international law, they said.

Vital reforms to the military, including ending endemic corruption, paying salaries and punishing the perpetrators of crimes such as murder, rape and pillage, have not been carried out.

The NGOs also called on the government to hold "irreproachable" elections after the highly disputed vote in 2011 that saw President Joseph Kabila cruise to victory.

Thousands of people took to the streets this month in protest plans to change the constitution to allow Kabila to stay in power beyond 2016, when he is due to step down after two five-year elected terms.

The report also called for neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda, home to an estimated 2,000 former M23 rebels and which the UN accuses of stoking conflict in DR Congo, to fulfill their part of the deal.

The fugitive rebels "continue... to sour relations between the three countries and pose a serious threat to peace and security for the region," said the report.

Francois Muamba, who oversees the body created to monitor the implementation of the Addis Ababa accord, told AFP that Kinshasa had made "considerable efforts" to implement its commitments and continued to work "with diligence" towards them.

He pointed to a new scheme to demobilise and integrate rebels that continue to proliferate in the east of the country that is expected to cost $85 million (66 million euro) over four years.