ADDIS ABABA - Regional African leaders signed a deal aimed at bringing peace and stability to the eastern DR Congo with plans to reinforce a UN-led mission to combat rebels after years of unrest. Eleven countries in the Great Lakes region - including those accused of stoking trouble by backing rebel groups - signed on to the accord at a ceremony in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa in the presence of UN chief Ban Ki-moon. "It is my hope that the framework will lead to an era of peace and stability for the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the region," Ban said, but added: "It is only the beginning of a comprehensive approach that will require sustained engagement."
The accord calls for regional countries to refrain from interfering in each other's affairs and aims to encourage the reform of weak institutions in the DRC, central Africa's largest country. It also provides for the "strategic revision" of the UN's 17,000-man strong MONUSCO mission, which may lead to creation of a special UN "intervention brigade" to combat rebel groups and support political reforms, and the appointment of a UN special envoy. South African President Jacob Zuma described the creation of the brigade, which will total 2,500 troops, as a realistic way to quickly restore security.