File image - The South Africa contingent of the UN peacekeepers in Congo erect a razor wire barrier around Goma airport in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Dar es Salaam -

The inability of UN peacekeeping forces to prevent conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is shameful, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, a key broker in the crisis, said at a summit on Saturday.

“It is a very big shame,” Museveni said of MONUSCO, during a summit of the southern African bloc SADC in the Tanzanian economic capital Dar es Salaam. “It is some sort of military tourism.”

The UN peacekeeping force has a total of 19,000 men in DR Congo, more than 6,000 of whom are deployed in the eastern region affected by the M23 rebel group's recent military offensive.

Inhibited by their mandate - as they have been in other instances in DR Congo over the years Ä the UN force was unable to stop the rebels' advance or prevent them from seizing the main eastern hub of Goma on November 20.

Uganda, which has denied damning UN reports accusing it and Rwanda of supporting the M23 rebels, favours the creation of a special neutral force to rein in M23 as well as a DRC-based Rwandan rebel group.

The situation in the eastern DRC topped the diplomatic agenda at the summit of the 15-nation Southern African Development Community.

M23, former rebels who were integrated into the Democratic Republic of Congo's regular forces in 2009 and mutinied again this year, pulled out of the main eastern city of Goma last week when the government agreed to discuss some of their demands.

Meanwhile in Kampala, a delegation of M23 negotiators arrived for talks with the government aimed at ending a crisis that has led to widespread rights abuses and displacement and sparked fears of an all-out regional conflict.

Both sides are due to hold preliminary meetings to agree on a negotiating format before the talks can start in earnest. - Sapa-AFP