Peace takes long in arriving to Democratic Republic of Congo
"This is a historic agreement. Hundreds of armed men of several insurgent groups and of several ethnic groups have come together to accompany their leaders to find a solution to the wall. "It was the first time this leaders appeared together in public", said Danilo Giannese, responsible for advocacy and communications of JRS Great Lakes, when he knew the news about the peace agreement signed at the beginning of February.
By signing this agreement, the rebels declared the end of conflict and of division between Hutus and Hundes in the area of Masisi. "We are very excited to see that rebel groups have finally decided laying down their arms. They understood that the way to achieve peace is not the use of force", said one of the spectators of this agreement. However, part of the population is still in doubt about the peace process. "I am afraid this may be just a political game. This area reminds full of uncontrolled weapons and people won´t come back home until they feel fully safe", said a displaced from a camp close to Masisi.
On the other hand a very important Congolese and international NGO´s welcome the agreement and ask the countries of the region of Great Lakes (and its international counterparts), to ensure that the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework Agreement, signed in Addis Abeba, would receive the political support needed to end the war in eastern Congo.
In a published political response and letters to the President of RDC, Joseph Kabila, to UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, to the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dlamini Zuma, to the U.S. President, Barack Obama, and to High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, the groups welcome the frame agreement as an opportunity for a new type of commitment to a conflict which in two decades have devastated millions of Congolese.
However, they also warn that the agreement will be a waste of time unless additional policy measures are taken: the appointment of a UN´s high special envoy with the capacity to mediate at national and regional level; the inclusion of civil Congolese society and of the major counterparties bilateral and multilateral donor of Kinshasa in the national suggested monitoring mechanism; and donors' connection with clear and agreed goals and the genuine partnership between governments, donors and civil society.
The groups have also require to create a donor fund to support projects focused on regional economic integration to emphasis benefits of regional stability; negotiations with armed groups mediated by UN which prevent impunity characteristics of the past agreements; and the donor´s substantial participation to promote rebel soldier´ demobilization and regional economic integration.
"We need a new approach, a peace process based on principles of justice", said Raphael Wakenge, coordinator of Congolese Initiative for peace and Justice. "The offers for peace proposed in the past have often closed their eyes to impunity, allowing war criminals to be integrated into the military, into the police and into the security service. This has undermined the peace process' legitimacy and the security service´s reputation, including the bench".
The Framework Agreement is based on two key points: putting an end to foreign support and to Congolese rebel movements and promoting the general reform of state institutions such as the national army, the policemen and the sectors of Judiciary.
"The Framework Agreement is a very important promise for Congolese people, but the last offers for peace have collapsed due to the lack of transparency, to the lack of a international commitment", said Federico Borello, director of Humanity United in Great Lakes. "This time, is indispensable to tackle finally the issue at its very corn: Impunity, regional interference, the weak rule of law. Without all this, our best chance for peace will fail.
Earlier updates: new confrontations, delay of the peace agreement between rebels and government, UN´s special envoy and delivery of "Terminator"
As Missionary International Service News Agency (MISNA) reported, M23 was divided into two rival factions: the supporters of Sultani Makenga, military chief of the movement which emerged in April of 2012 y, and those who are in favor of Bosco Ntaganda, leader of the former rebellion of CNDP which M23 was inspired by.
Recent confrontations between both groups-which have caused dozens dead and multitudes injuries and hundreds of flights-, have forced the government of Kinshasa to stop the sign; originally announced in March 15th, according to peace with the rebels. "We cannot sign the agreement on Friday because the government is not sure yet what is the counterpart to deal with after M23´s division", said Lambert Mende, the government spokesperson. The civil society of North Kivu asked the Congolese authorities to stop negotiations with the rebels undertaken in Kampala (Uganda) last December.
In the meantime, the UN has already designated Mary Robinson as UN special envoy for the Great Lakes region. Former President of Ireland, with extensive experience in international relations and in protecting human rights of people, will be, without a doubt, crucial to promote practical solutions to political, economical and social problems, which the region is going through.
Against this background, Spanish government has stated its desire to continue to achieve the goals of the Framework Agreement designed to promote peace, security and cooperation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, signed in Adis Abeba on 24 February, mission in which the new special envoy can play a new important role. "The stabilization in eastern RDC is essential for the whole region to move forward economical and social development, which peace is based on in the long term", said the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation through a special communiqué.
Finally, the latest news that we have is that last 18 March, rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda, wanted by international justice for war crimes, surrendered to U.S. embassy in Kigali, Ruanda. Ntaganda, known as "Terminator", is accused, among other things, of recruiting child soldiers, of killings, of persecution for ethnic reasons and of rapes in eastern RDC. He integrated into the Congolese army in 2009 and fled in April. He also accused the authorities of Kinshasa of not keeping their word.
The Congolese Government spokesman, Lambert Mende, said that he was "sure" that Ntaganda was among the rebels, which these days crossed the border into Ruanda after the internal division of 23M movements and after the victory of the "moderate" sector led by Sultani Makenga. Kigali, in fact, is accused of providing military, political and logistic support to the rebellion in Congo, even though he is part of the mediator group, which is trying to negotiate a peace agreement.
Entreculturas´ work in Republic Democratic of Congo
Entreculturas works in Democratic Republic of Congo since 2008 along with other European Jesuit ONG´s integrated in Xavier Network. All of them have support Jesuit Refugee Service´s work which offers educational service to displace and refugee people, main victims of this conflict. JRS works at the moment in two areas of North Kivu: districts of Masisi and Mweso. It has also expanded its service to other improvised displaced camps, where formal and informal education and emergency assistance is provided to both internally displaced and local communities where these camps are defined.
According to UNICEF office in RDC, over the past months more than 600 schools were destroyed or vandalized in the region of Kivu. The school furniture and the study books were used as fuel.
Entreculturas supports JRS´s work in Mweso and Masisi. In both locations they are helping to improve the access and the quality of education (formal and informal) for displaced people and the local communities through actions such as:
- Building schools
- Promoting community participation on education
- Training teachers in collaboration with the Ministry of Education
- Distributing school supplies to students
- Distributing teaching supplies to teachers
- Establishing training centers and protection for women centers (income-generating activities, literacy)
- Establishing professional training centers for young people
- Undertaking courses of professional training (carpentry...)
Entreculturas helps improve living conditions of more than 5,000 people in more than 10 displaced camps with these activities.