The escalation of conflict in Eastern DRC calls for more Transparency and Political will
The recent fighting and humanitarian catastrophe in North Kivuhave exposed the need for greater determination on all sides to resolve this conflict. While laudable progress has been made in signing various peace agreements, the crisis today indicates that the underlying political and economic causes of the conflict are yet to be properly addressed. Ongoing tensions between the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda, and the persistent illegal resource trafficking from the DRC are the two major issues to be resolved for lasting peace to be achieved. Greater transparency and accountability from all parties - national, regional and international will be needed. In the last few weeks we have seen the smoke screens multiply, the gulf between rhetoric and reality, discourse and deed, seems as wider today than ever before. This lack of transparency remains a major obstacle to the search for peace in the region. There must now be far greater political will from all to ensure that the DRC and Rwandan governments, as well as all Congolese rebel groups, fulfil their respective commitments. The signing of the Goma Agreement and Amani Programme in January 2008 between the DRC government and Congolese armed groups, including the CNDP faction led by the dissident General Nkunda, was an important step towards peace and remains the only credible framework for Congolese peace discussions. The failure to implement the Nairobicommitments, signed a year ago by the DRC and Rwandan governments, for the repatriation of FDLR militias and refugees in the DRC, has contributed significantly to today's crisis in North Kivu. Recent reports of Rwandan military presence in the DRC are a particularly disturbing indication that political will for peace is lacking. MONUC has confirmed that its peacekeepers have seen Rwandan tanks fire into Congo from over the border and claim intelligence reports exist indicating that Rwandan artillery and personnel have been integrated into CNDP rebel forces. International mediators should use their influence to ensure the withdrawal of CNDP troops from positions acquired in the recent hostilities and urge all groups to return to the Amani process. Donor governments must press for the withdrawal of any foreign troops and press neighbouring states to ensure that their territories are not being used to support armed rebel groups in the Congo. Ultimately external intervention and support to fighting groups will only serve to undermine peace in the whole region and perpetuate suffering and instability in the region, preventing civilians from getting on with their lives. The Congoconflict has been described as a modern-day 'Scramble for Africa' - it is now well known that this conflict has been fuelled by the increasing global demand for minerals found in the DRC such as cassiterite and coltan. Influential governments and donors must ensure that their efforts to build peace in the Great Lakesare not being undermined by illegal trading with companies registered in their countries. The survival of thousands, possibly millions, of people now depends on the mobilisation of political will to resolve this conflict once and for all.
Shuna Keen, member of CA EurAc
Senior Governance Officer, AfricaDivision, Christian Aid