No 'quick fix' for peace in Congo and the Great Lakes

By agency reporter
November 16, 2013

The announcement by the M23 leadership that it is to abandon its rebellion and continue as a political movement will not provide a ‘quick fix’ solution to instability in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) says UK-based churches' global development agency Christian Aid.

Earlier this week, the DRC Government and the M23 rebels were expected to sign a peace deal, but the talks in Kampala broke down and have been delayed indefinitely.

Many of the rebels have fled to Uganda and Rwanda, while others have surrendered or gone into hiding.

Their fate, and that of its leadership, remains unclear, but it is crucial that any future deal between the Congolese government and the M23 focuses on accountability rather than offering the rebels amnesty for grave human rights violations. Meanwhile, the DRC national army (FARDC) has retaken all positions previously held by M23.

Chantal Daniels, Christian Aid’s senior policy and conflict advisor, warned that the presence of other armed groups in the area still posed significant challenges for the DRC and Great Lakes region.

"We have to learn from the past and be wary of assuming that the apparent demise of the M23 is a quick fix solution to the problems stemming from chronic instability in eastern DRC; we should not see their defeat as the end, but as the beginning of long-awaited progress on building peace and stability in the DRC and the region as a whole.

"However, the dissolution of the M23 is a significant success for the UN Peacekeeping Operation in the DRC, as well as for the FARDC, which has so far been perceived as undisciplined and, on many occasions, responsible for grave human rights violations.

"It certainly signifies an important milestone for stability, but whether this is a genuine turning point in the DRC’s cycle of conflict and violence has yet to be seen", she said.

According to Daniels, long-term assistance to enable civilians to return home safely is now crucial, along with urgent steps to address effectively the wider presence of armed groups in eastern DRC, and ensure that the areas disbanded by the M23 are not suddenly occupied by other armed groups.

"The M23 are by no means the only armed group operating in the east where the state has little or no control," she added.

"Violent clashes between the FARDC, the M23, and other rebel groups such as the FDLR and Mai Mai Cheka for example, have resulted in more than 700,000 people fleeing their homes to seek refuge in camps, host families, or in neighbouring countries, bringing the total number of people displaced in North Kivu alone to over one million.

"The oft referred need to ‘neutralise’ armed groups can only be sustainable if there are renewed efforts in the fields of disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) of combatants. Such activities need to focus on the reintegration of these men and women back into communities and prevent general integration into the FARDC," said the Christian Aid spokesperson.

Daniels added that military victories were no substitute for strong political processes and much-needed institutional reforms, such as improving the country’s security sector, strengthening government transparency and accountability, and addressing inter-community tensions around land and ethnicity.

She called for "a broader peace process, which includes the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC and the Great Lakes region’ as an important step forward."

"If we want Congolese women, men and children to be able to rebuild their lives and live in peace, sustained national and regional commitment, and continuous international attention and assistance is necessary," she said.

[Ekk/3]

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