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21/11/2012 | DR Congo’s Goma: Avoiding a New Regional War

International Crisis Group Staff

The east Congolese city of Goma and its key airport have reportedly fallen after heavy fighting to the M23 rebel group. Regional and international actors must now prevent this turning into a new regional war. The past week has shown history repeating itself in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), with the same tragic consequences for civilians in the region.

 

OVERVIEW

Since Bosco Ntaganda’s mutiny in April 2012 and the subsequent creation of the 23 March rebel movement (M23), violence has returned to the Kivus. However today’s crisis bears the same hallmarks as yesterday’s, a consequence of the failure to implement the 2008 framework for resolution of the conflict. Rather than effectively implementing the 23 March 2009 peace agreement signed by the government and the CNDP (National Council for the Defence of the People), the Congolese authorities have instead only feigned the integration of the CNDP into political institutions, and likewise the group appears to have only pretended to integrate into the Congolese army. Furthermore in the absence of the agreed army reform, military pressure on armed groups had only a temporary effect and, more­over, post-conflict reconstruction has not been accompanied by essential governance reforms and political dialogue. To move away from crisis management and truly resolve this two-decade-old conflict, donors should put pressure on both Kigali and Kinshasa.

The M23 is behaving in a similar fashion to previous rebel movements by creating its own administration and its own financing system in parts of North Kivu. Meanwhile, Mai-Mai groups are expanding in rural areas where they commit atrocities that exacerbate inter-ethnic tensions. In July this year, in accordance with the peace and security architecture, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) organised a regional dialogue to avoid conflict between Rwanda and the DRC. Unfortunately, the outcome of this was an unrealistic and ineffective solution: the deployment of a 4,000-strong neutral force at the border between Rwanda and the DRC. If international donors and African mediators persist in managing the crisis rather than solving it, it will be impossible to avoid such repetitive cycles of rebellions in the Kivus and the risk of large-scale violence will remain. Instead, to finally resolve this conflict, it is essential that Rwanda ends its involvement in Congolese affairs and that the reconstruction plan and the political agreements signed in the Kivus are properly implemented. For these things to happen Western donors should maintain aid suspension against Rwanda until the release of the next report of the UN group of experts, in addition to issuing a clear warning to the Congolese authorities that they will not provide funding for stabilisation and institutional support until the government improves political dialogue and governance in both the administration and in the army in the east, as recommended by Crisis Group on several previous occasions.

In the short term, this crisis can be dealt with through the following initiatives:

  • the negotiation and monitoring of a ceasefire between the Congolese authorities and the M23 by the UN;
  • the reactivation of an effective and permanent joint verification mechanism for the DRC and Rwandan border, as envisaged by the ICGLR, which should be provided with the necessary technical and human resources;
  • the addition of the individuals and entities that supported the M23 and other armed groups to the UN sanctions list and the consideration of an embargo on weapons sales to Rwanda;
  • the joint evaluation of the 23 March 2009 agreement in the framework of the international follow-up committee it established and this assessment should be the basis for resumption of dialogue between the government and the CNDP;
  • the launch of local peace initiatives in Walikale, Masisi, Shabunda and Kalehe areas where ethnic tension is high by MONUSCO and the government;
  • the arrest and handover of Bosco Ntaganda to the International Criminal Court (ICC); and
  • the launch of an investigation by the ICC into the actions of M23 and new armed groups, and the request by the ICC that MONUSCO transfer to it its files concerning M23 leaders.

After analysing the failure of the stabilisation of the Kivus in the report Congo: No Stability in Kivu Despite a Rapprochement with Rwanda, this new Crisis Group briefing explains the surge of violence and underlines that the Kivus do not need a new strategic approach; rather, the peace agreements and stabilisation plans should no longer remain empty promises. To achieve this, coordinated and unequivocal pressure is required from the donors that help fund the Rwandan and Congolese regimes.

International Crisis Group (Organismo Internacional)

 


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