Kinshasa - Former Botswana president Ketumile Masire, the principal intermediary between the warring parties in the Congo, flew home on Thursday night after the DRC government had grounded several of his flights, accusing him of acting as a "Trojan horse".
The accusations from DRC Foreign Minister Yerodia Abdoulaye Ndombasi followed an upsurge in fighting in the past two weeks, with hopes for peace receding after renewed threats by both sides to abandon the Lusaka peace agreement.
The government claimed Masire, facilitator of an all-party dialogue, turned up unannounced in Kinshasa and tried to fly to rebel territory without asking permission.
But on Thursday night, Masire's staff said he had asked the United Nations special representative in Kinshasa to arrange his visit. On Monday and Tuesday he had waited in Kinshasa for flight clearances to other parts of the DRC. These were not granted.
"The first indication that the authorities in the DRC did not want the facilitator's visit were attempts to take the facilitator and his team off the flight bound for Kinshasa from Johannesburg airport," said a statement.
"These actions are clearly intended to frustrate the facilitator's visit. He deeply regrets this unfortunate situation and hopes the government, sooner rather than later, will see the necessity of assisting him."
Western diplomats said the issues surrounding the facilitator and his role had become the biggest immediate obstacle to the peace process.