Goma — The Kampala summit ended yesterday in Uganda without an agreement on the creation of a neutral military force to tackle the conflict raging in the Congolese province of North Kivu since May this year.
The negotiations have now been postponed to 15 August 2012. But the youths in the Congolese city of Goma no longer believe in them and instead want a strong stance by the international community.
Since two weeks the population of North Kivu is living in expectation. The M23 rebel movement, which controls parts of the province, is observing a tacit truce in the fighting against the Congolese army.
The rebel movement is named after the March 2009 treaty which promised Congolese forces would chase another rebel movement, called the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), from its territory, which so far has not happened.
The truce is being observed because the M23 rebels are waiting for the outcome of a series of negotiations between member states of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) to a find solution to the conflict.
But summits and conferences go by without any concrete results and the nation fears renewed fighting.
"It is just an eyewash, the negotiations are there to distract us," says Joseph, a 21-year-old student.
No peace wanted
For young people in Goma, the negotiations are biased. According to them, neighbouring states don't want peace in the eastern DRC.
"Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi are all dishonest. We know these countries are enemies to the DRC. They team up against us for their own interests in North Kivu," says Rodrigue, another young student.
Rwanda which has been accused of supporting the M23 rebels, did agree on the creation of a neutral military force whose exact nature was to be discussed at the conference in Kampala on 6 and 7 August.
But Congolese and Rwandan officials failed to find a solution on Tuesday. The DRC wanted a reinforcement of the mandate and the troops of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), while Rwanda called for the creation of a regional military force which would involve Rwanda and Uganda.
Following accusations of supporting the M23 rebels, that both Rwanda and, more recently, Uganda have faced, the DRC rejected the proposal. A new date and address have been set for further negotiations - 15 August in Addis Ababa.
"These negotiations will lead to nothing, the international community needs to get involved because we are negotiating with the wrong people, the very same ones who want to harm us," said Faisa, a young teacher in Goma.
Sanctions not enough
Some young people believe that the mobilization of the international community has been far too insignificant since the conflict began. Several donor countries such as Germany and the Netherlands have suspended aid to Rwanda following the publication of a UN report accusing the country of supporting the rebels. But the M23 movement still managed to make progress and is now less than 30 kilometers from Goma.
"Suspension of aid is not enough. The money that Rwanda is making by exploiting our minerals largely compensates for that. Sanctions are not enough, people are suffering," said Rodrigue.
Following the fighting between the rebels and the Congolese army, thousands of people fled the country and sought refuge in camps in Uganda, Rwanda and around Goma.
"It is now a month since we fled, without carrying anything with us. Today, we sleep in the open and food is rare," says Odette (35), a refugee in the Kanyaruchinya camp near Goma. "If the M23 rebels reach here, we would be left with no choice but to flee again."
Patient til when?
Since the M23 rebels have begun with the truce two weeks ago, claiming they are "giving a chance to diplomacy," there seem to be a sign of relief among the fleeing population.
But the endless delays could potentially erode their patience. The renewed fighting would lead to new displacement of people in a country where there are already 2 million of them and where emergency funds are already insufficient.
"Maybe the donor countries could give us the money they planned to give to Rwanda and which they now suspended? That would be a really good gesture," proposes 20-year-old Clarisse as a good joke for Rwanda.
Not such a far-fetched idea, if you think about it.