25 February 2013

Congo-Kinshasa: African Press Review 25 February 2013

The latest peace deal for the eastern DRC is making headlines across the continent.

South Africa's BusinessDay quotes United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon's description of the agreement as "important, historic and milestone", which is a bit over the top, even by Ban Ki Moon's standards.

It's hard to share the UN chief's optimism. We have already seen dozens of failed peace deals for a region which has no administrative structure, lots of armed militia, huge mineral resources and thousands of refugees.

When asked what made this accord different from previous failed declarations, Congolese President Joseph Kabila pointed to the fact that this time, everybody was on board. The lads from the M23 rebel movement are definitely not on board, but that's the sort of detail you can miss when you're in Kinshasa, half the width of Africa away from what's actually happening.

There are certainly plenty of regional leaders on board . . . six presidents put their names to Sunday's deal. Zambia, Burundi and the Central African Republic (CAR) were represented by senior ministers and Angola and Uganda by their vice-presidents.

You have to wonder what the support ofAngola or the CAR, for example, will do to promote peace in the Kivus, but then, what can you expect from a deal struck in far away Addis Ababa. All signatory countries will have to participate in twice-yearly meetings to monitor progress towards real peace. You can bet those meetings won't be held in Goma either.

The framework aims to address two of the root causes of the conflict in the eastern DRC: the country's weak and dysfunctional security, justice and governance systems; and the continued interference by neighbouring countries.

Critics claim that the framework will do neither of those things.

Solomon Dersso at the Institute for Security Studies in Addis Ababa says oversight of Congo's institutional reform process has been substantially diluted by the new deal, because the original intention was for it to be supervised by a joint international and DRC body.

Now that has changed and the process will be supervised entirely by the DRC government. With the crucial problem being that the writ of said government doen not run as far as Kivu.

The deal may not be robust enough to prevent other countries in the region from meddling in the DRC's affairs, although attendees at the ceremony in Addis agreed the presence of President Paul Kagame was a sign that Rwanda intended to act in good faith.

The framework makes no mention of the deployment of the proposed neutral intervention force that the AU peace and security commissioner has said will eventually work alongside Monusco, the UN's existing, and much maligned, peacekeeping mission in the DRC.

Yesterday in Kenya, six presidential candidates committed themselves to peace whatever the outcome of the 4 March elections.

The highlight of the day was when Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who is the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy flag-bearer, shook hands and embraced his fiercest critics and bitterest political rivals, Jubilee candidate Uhuru Kenyatta and his running mate William Ruto.

This evening, the candidates make their final pleas to the 14.3 million registered voters as they take to the podiums to argue their cases in the last presidential debate.

Slated to start at 7pm, the debate will give candidates a chance to answer questions from two moderators in a live television event broadcast on all national channels and radio stations.

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