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Recent Clashes in DRC Cast Doubt on U.N. Initiatives

UNITED NATIONS, Jul 29 2013 (IPS) - “Will they come to life, or are they only going to be destined to live on paper?” asked U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during a meeting of the U.N. Security Council last week. He was referring to  resolution 2098 on Peace, Security and Cooperation (PSC) relating to the multi-level Peace framework adopted by the U.N. in March 2013.


The initiatives constitute two of the many attempts to reinstate peace in the Great Lakes region of Africa, a region comprising Burundi, Rwanda, and part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya and Tanzania.

The March 23 movement (M23) rebels, as well as other armed groups, have been cyclically attacking the mineral-rich eastern provinces of the DRC in the last two decades.

The conflict was sporadically fuelled by DRC’s eastern neighbours, meddling in its internal affairs and being the origin or destination of flows of refugees through the years.

The war has had devastating results on the population, particularly women and children. The death toll is set at 3.5 million (with some estimates at over 5.4 million)  And, as of 1998, 2.6 millions of people are internally displaced and 6.4 million are in immediate need of food assistance.

Despite ongoing peace talks and the presence of the U.N. Stabilisation Mission in the Congo (MONUSCO), clashes between the Congolese army and the M23 resumed on July 14th.
The events of July cast doubt on recent U.N.‘s initiatives.

The support of Rwanda to the M23 could be one of the reasons. Without addressing the country directly, Kerry told the Council “All parties must immediately end their support for armed rebel groups.”

But Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region Mary Robinson remain optimistic.

Addressing the Security Council Wednesday, Ban said that “The prospects for durable peace in eastern DRC remain better than they have been for many years.”

Robinson reported initial progress in the PSC framework, implemented only five months ago, namely, a national mineral certification programme to prevent rebel group to illegally benefit from it and more generally, a regional willingness to provide technical support to monitor the implementation of the framework.

“it may appear minor, but it is important for people on the ground,” she added, also reminding the signatories that they had to respect their engagement for the framework to bear fruit.

DRC Foreign Affairs Minister Raymond Tshibanda Tunga Mulongo said although the intervention of MONUSCO is a blessing, especially as resolution 2098 allows the forces to “neutralize” armed group, he reminded the Council that “it is not a solution in itself.”

The problem “must be solved by dialogue between all the parties in good faith.” Tshibanda said. He then specified that the DRC would not give away any part of its territory or allow impunity.

One way out of the crisis, along with serious peace talks, is to reinvigorate the economy of the region. World Bank President Dr. Jim Yong Kim visited DRC in May and committed to invest an additional one  billion dollars in economic projects ranging from health and education to hydro-electricity.

Cross-border trade and regional economic integration would create interdependence among the countries in the region and provide a new incentive for peace.

 
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