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Congo, M23 Rebels Set to Sign Peace Deal

FILE - General Sultani Makenga, military leader of the M23 rebels.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is set to sign a peace deal Monday with M23 rebels, a week after the group announced it was halting its fighting to pursue its goals through political means.

The signing is taking place in neighboring Uganda, which has hosted peace talks between Congo and M23. The agreement is expected to detail the process for demobilizing rebel fighters, some of which are likely to be integrated into the Congolese army.

The United Nations special envoy for the region, Mary Robinson, said on Sunday that the peace deal is an important step towards peace.

Eastern Congo has been ravaged by years of fighting between the government and various rebel groups, often competing for control of the area's rich mines.

Robinson said the focus will now shift to defeating other armed groups there, particularly the FDLR, a Rwandan Hutu group.

The Congolese army is backed by a 3,000-soldier U.N. "intervention brigade," authorized to undertake offensive operations against the rebels.

They seized the last of M23's strongholds in North Kivu province last week, leading to the group announcing the end of the rebellion it launched in April 2012.

Uganda is holding M23's military chief, Sultani Makenga, who crossed the border last week along with at least 1,500 rebel fighters.

M23 consists of fighters who joined the Congolese army in a 2009 peace deal but later defected after complaining of poor treatment.

Congo has accused neighboring Rwanda and Uganda of supporting M23, an allegation both countries deny.