Too many peace efforts mean further instability in eastern Congo


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The Independent Online

Confusion over the crisis in eastern Congo stems from three separate and often competing peace efforts in one of the world’s most unstable areas. Fighting between rebel groups and the army has displaced one million people since July, all under the watchful eye of the UN’s biggest peacekeeping operation.

A proliferation of armed groups in the remote, heavily forested east of the vast country has allowed rival countries to blame each other for the crisis.

A “framework agreement” was signed in February of this year which committed the Democratic Republic of Congo’s neighbours to resolving grievances in return for development aid.

The former Irish President Mary Robinson has been made envoy to the Great Lakes region by the UN but has found herself increasingly isolated as fighting has once again flared on the border with Rwanda and Uganda.

At the same time talks between the Congolese government and army mutineers, the M23, meant to be hosted in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, have stalled. The DRC President Joseph Kabila appears to believe the army can defeat the M23 on the battlefield and has little incentive to keep talking.

Analysts have warned an attempt to impose a military solution is unlikely to resolve competition for resources and grievances over land, rights and past conflicts which have fuelled instability in the mineral-rich area.

Meanwhile, the million residents of Goma face regular shelling by rebels in the hills above the city and hundreds of thousands of refugees, displaced in previous conflicts, live under constant threat in sprawling camps that ring the city.