24 February 2013

Africa: 'Make or Break Time' for Eastern DRC After New Peace Plan, Warns Oxfam

After nearly 20 years of fighting, the Democratic Republic of Congo has moved a step closer to peace. Leaders from 11 African countries have signed an ... ( Resource: African Leaders Sign DR Congo Peace Deal

press release

A framework for peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo, due to be signed today, will fail to end the suffering of millions of people in the east of the country unless concrete actions are now taken to ensure leaders stick to the deal and tackle key issues of land, ethnicity and development, international agency Oxfam said today.

The agency said the agreement is a positive step at a critical moment, but falls short of what is needed to halt decades of conflict.

"The real deal will begin tomorrow in villages across eastern Congo where leaders must prove that this plan is more than a ceremonial piece of paper. Signing is easy - the hard work starts now. The crisis is worse than ever and it's good news that leaders have come together, but what happens over the next few months will make or break the deal. Many previous agreements have looked good on paper but never been implemented. There is a long way to go and a lot to do before this framework brings any change for people caught up in the conflict," said Philippa Crosland-Taylor, Oxfam's Deputy Regional Director.

Oxfam said that national civil society must play a key role in shaping the details as the process moves ahead, and holding their governments accountable to what they have signed. So far the framework has involved little or no civil society consultation. Oxfam also called for regular dates to be set where United Nations and African Union envoys report back to their security councils on progress and whether commitments are kept.

Oxfam said the new framework must reinvigorate the 2006 Pact on Security, Stability and Development, with a particular emphasis on tackling key local issues such the lack of development, tensions over land rights, and the complex power and ethnic dimensions of the conflict.

Communities in eastern Congo urgently need greater protection from the ongoing violence that has forced around 500,000 people to flee since April 2012. However, Oxfam said discussions on establishing a new Intervention Brigade within MONUSCO, the UN peacekeeping force, must bear in mind that previous military operations have often caused more displacement and retaliatory attacks on civilians, while failing to eradicate armed groups. Any new force must have strict guidelines that respect international humanitarian law and minimise civilian casualties, the agency said.

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