5 October 2012

Congo-Kinshasa: Call to Implement Peace Agreements in North Kivu

Photo: Phil Moore/IRIN
A displaced Congolese man sits in a classroom of the Katoyi primary school being used by displaced people for shelter in Masisi territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo's North Kivu province on June 4, 2012.

Nairobi — Experts have called on donors and the international community to exert pressure on governments of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda to stop the escalation of violence in the DRC's North Kivu region by demonstrating the political will to implement peace agreements with rebel groups and each other.

"What is needed in North Kivu is not a new political agreement that none of the parties will respect and will only address the crisis management but a real engagement from all the parties to resolve the conflict. Donors have to put pressure on both Rwanda and DRC to resolve this conflict and respect their engagement, non-interference and security sector reform," Marc-André Lagrange, Central Africa senior analyst with the International Crisis Group (ICG), told IRIN.

In a briefing released Thursday, the Brussels-based ICG called for, among other things, a UN-negotiated settlement between the Congolese authorities and rebel group M23.

"If international donors and African mediators persist in managing the crisis rather than solving it, it will be impossible to avoid the repetitive cycle of rebellions in the Kivus and the risk of large-scale violence will remain," the ICG briefing said.

Blame game

The M23, comprised of former DRC national army (FARDC) soldiers who mutinied in April, are fighting government troops in North and South Kivu. A report by UN experts accused Rwanda of supporting the rebel group, accusations Rwandese authorities have denied.

"The M23 is the result of the failure to implement the previous peace agreements by all parties, and failure from both Rwanda and DRC to respect the engagement taken in the International Conference on Great Lakes Region peace and security pact and the 2009 peace agreement. MONUSCO [the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in DRC] and international donors, by their passivity, also bear a responsibility in the actual crisis," said ICG's Lagrange.

Failure to implement a March 2009 peace agreement between Congolese authorities and the rebel group National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) has helped perpetuate violence in the area, the ICG says.

Meanwhile, there are concerns that the killing of at least 10 people by unknown assailants this week in Goma, the capital of North Kivu Province, could lead to more violence.

"People are living in tension, and they don't know what will happen. The M23 are now saying they want to get into Goma to rescue people from the military. There might be more violence," Aloys Tegera, a researcher at the Pole Institute, told IRIN.

In a September statement, Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused M23 rebels of committing war crimes in eastern DRC.

"The M23 rebels are committing a horrific trail of new atrocities in eastern Congo," Anneke Van Woudenberg, senior Africa researcher at HRW, said in the statement. "M23 commanders should be held accountable for these crimes, and the Rwandan officials supporting these abusive commanders could face justice for aiding and abetting the crimes."

But Tegera said that, while it is not clear who is responsible for the killings, a military personnel had disclosed that the Congolese army could have been responsible, and that some 5,000 armed military personnel have deserted duty and disappeared into the civilian population.

Worsening security

Aid workers told IRIN that the current security situation, while troubling, hasn't yet impacted their work.

"The security situation has become a concern in Goma recently, but not to the extent that it is actually affecting humanitarian work in the region. Currently, the main impact of the increase in security incidents in Goma has been that humanitarians are exercising more caution when they move around at night," Ann-France White, from the response and coordination unit of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)in DRC, told IRIN by email.

The Congolese government has sent a large contingent of troops to the area to quell the threat posed by M23. Tegera told IRIN the increase in troop numbers could be worsening the situation.

"The presence of the military is not helping much, and it is only adding to insecurity because they are harassing people," Tegera added.

In one of the attacks, a grenade was thrown at the residence of the vice governor of North Kivu Province, but no casualties were reported. A week earlier, grenades were hurled into a restaurant, wounding several people.

A woman and two men were shot dead near the University of Goma; another man was killed in Ndosho, also in Goma, while three more people were killed in North Mabanga, Karishimbi and Keshero neighborhoods.

"If they are attacking even government officials, how can ordinary citizens be safe?" Tegera asked.

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]

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