Global Policy Forum

Peace Deal Unraveling


By Peter Eichstaedt

Institute for War and Peace Reporting
June 30, 2008

The fragile peace that has restored some calm in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, DRC, is in danger of collapsing, say key militia groups. "They attacked our positions. It is now war," said Sendugu Museveni, the former president and now chief negotiator for PARECO, one of the major ethnic Hutu groups to sign a ceasefire in January.

A peace deal was signed in the Goma, the capital of the North Kivu Province, by more than 20 militias operating in the region. Museveni accused the forces of Tutsi militia General Laurent Nkunda of repeated violations of the ceasefire and of sabotaging the peace process by backing out of the talks last week, as it has done several times before. "This is the last chance," said Museveni. "We are very tired of responding to the capriciousness of the Tutsis who do whatever they want …. We will not agree to be dominated all the time by the Tutsis."

The latest clashes between Nkunda's forces and PARECO occurred last week in the Masisi region, about 70 kilometres east of Goma, causing an unknown number of casualties, said Museveni. He said it came in the wake of various attacks since the deal was signed in January, leaving nearly 50 dead. The figures could not be independently confirmed.

According to sources within the United Nations military operations in Goma, MONUC, at least 190 violations of the ceasefire have been recorded since late January and continue on a regular basis. The UN has positioned itself between the various militia positions, as part of the January accord. The UN has had limited success, however, as it gradually withdraws from some areas after turning over peacekeeping duties to the Congolese army.

Rene Abandi, Nkunda's spokesman, said that his group was still involved in the process, but has suspended active involvement until certain of its demands are met. Abandi said the major concern with Nkund'a militia is the lack of a sweeping amnesty for the group, which is a prerequisite if its member are to become part of the Congolese army, as has been proposed."It is not possible to mix forces with the government [by] forgiving them for only the crime of insurrection," said Abandi. "It is necessary to give them an amnesty (for war crimes and crimes against humanity)."

Nkunda's top commander, Bosco Ntaganda, has been indicted by the International Criminal Court, ICC, in The Hague, but remains at large and is actively involved with Nkunda's army, considered to be the most formidable in the region. Abandi said Nkunda's group has been unfairly accused of being the stumbling block to the peace talks.Abandi blamed the DRC parliament and President Joseph Kabila for the lack of progress in the talks. "There is no political will at the highest levels to make peace," he said.

The DRC government has failed to provide critical funds to support the negotiations, he said, and the parliament, which is about to recess for three months, has not adopted legislation that will formalise details of the Goma peace agreement. Abandi said that the ethnic Hutu militias in the region must be returned to Rwanda and the government has to provide assurances that the ethnic Tutsis in the region, whom Nkunda has said he is responsible for, will be secure."They must be moved," he said of the Hutu militias, "so that we can leave our families in peace. What will happen to these families if we withdraw?"Abandi blamed the latest clashes on the Congolese military, which is attempting to push Nkunda from the region, "The government came to take our place. We are ready to give it, but it must be done within the peace process."

Felicien Miganda, a negotiator for a militia called the Mai-Mai Mongol, said the latest clashes do not spell the end of the peace deal. "The process will work," he said. "These are accidents along the way."Miganda also urged that the Hutu militias be returned to Rwanda, rather than lingering in North and South Kivu Provinces, and that the DRC should engage in negotiations to accomplish that with Rwanda.

Anneke Van Woudenberg, senior researcher with Human Rights Watch in London, told IWPR that she was hopeful the peace process would continue."Any suspension by any of the actors is troubling," she said. "This process is fragile. It's hobbling along." She also encouraged the DRC to provide the money necessary to keep the talks going, but added that much of the responsibility for peace rested with the various militias.

"They have to stop pointing fingers," said Van Woudenberg. "It's their country, their land and their people who are suffering." Goma lawyer Joseph Dunia said that if the international community did not become more actively involved in the peace process, renewed war in the region was inevitable.

"The Congolese army can't stop these armed groups," Dunia told IWPR. "The rebels are exploiting minerals," he said, which were used to buy weapons and rebuild their forces as the talks proceeded. "The Congo problem is more important than Darfur," he said, and complained that since the 2006 election, little has been done by the international community to ensure peace in the region.

"The solution is peace," he said. "Do we really need another war?"

More Information on the UN Security Council
More Information on the Democratic Republic of Congo


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