A regional political settlement must be reached in the Great Lakes to prevent any more humanitarian catastrophes as currently being witnessed in north Kivu, Christian Aid has said.
More than five million have died in the last ten years in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), making it the world’s most deadly conflict since the Second World War.
Christian Aid says the tensions between the DRC and Rwanda, and illegal mineral mining in the DRC are the major underlying issues which must be addressed for lasting peace to be achieved.
In the immediate future Christian Aid supports the rapid deployment of an EU force to increase the effectiveness of the UN force, MONUC. This would ensure that MONUC’s Chapter VII mandate for peace enforcement and civilian protection is implemented more decisively.
Christian Aid says the recent offensive of General Laurent Nkunda is a clear act of aggression.
"The CNDP forces of General Nkunda have clearly reneged on the Goma Agreement," says Judith Melby, Christian Aid’s Africa specialist. "These forces must pull back to the positions they held in August before this latest round of fighting."
The Goma Agreement was signed last January between the government and the various armed groups active in eastern DRC, including the CNDP faction led by the dissident General Nkunda. It called for an immediate cessation of hostilities, disengagement of troops and the creation of a buffer zone.
"Civil society organisations from across the DRC were involved in drawing up a plan of action called the Amani programme to implement aspects of this national peace agreement," continues Ms Melby. "Amani is the only framework for peace negotiations and the donor community must ensure it receives all the support it needs."
Christian Aid is particularly concerned by reports of Rwandan military presence in the DRC. It says the UK government should use all its influence as a major donor and diplomatic actor in the region to ensure the cessation of intervention by foreign armies.
In November 2007, the DRC and Rwanda signed the Nairobi Agreement for the repatriation of Hutu militias and refugees who have been in the DRC since the genocide of 1994.
"This conflict will not be solved purely by talks among the various Congolese factions. Equal emphasis must be placed on making progress with the Nairobi Agreement. There must be the political will to ensure that Rwanda and the DRC fulfil their commitments made in Nairobi," says Ms Melby.
The Rwandan government has a responsibility to ensure its territory is not used for supplying weapons to the CNDP or any armed group in the Kivus.
Christian Aid says that much greater emphasis must be put on resolving the other underlying cause of the conflict; namely the illegal mineral trade.
This is fuelled by the increasing global demand for minerals found in the DRC such as cassiterite and coltan. In 2002 the UN Panel of Experts produced a report on the illegal exploitation of natural resources in the DRC. A number of UK companies were named including Barclays, De Beers and Anglo American.
"We need a greater effort and far more transparency to resolve this issue. Congo’s wealth belongs to its citizens and it should be used for the development which this country so desperately needs," says Ms Melby.
"Without peace and an effective government able to impose its authority country-wide, unscrupulous companies and countries will continue to plunder the wealth of the DRC."
The UN estimates that more than 200,000 people have been displaced since August when fighting resumed between General Nkunda and the forces of the Congolese government.