The co-authors, Enough Project Senior Policy Analyst Sasha Lezhnev and Congo Field Researcher Fidel Bafilemba, are currently in Goma, near the front lines of recent clashes between M23 rebels and Congolese government forces in Congo’s mineral-rich eastern region. The latest round of fighting between Congo’s army and the rebel group threatens to derail the peace process. The report is based on interviews the Enough Project conducted in Congo, Rwanda, and Kenya over the past two weeks while investigating the deteriorating security situation and discussing the way forward with Congolese and regional stakeholders.
Lead author Lezhnev stated:
“Eastern Congo has become a powder keg in the first weeks of the new UN intervention brigade. Unless Secretary Kerry and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon work urgently to clarify its mission and strategy with countries in the region, the war could escalate into the kind of disaster we have not witnessed in years.”
The Enough Project argues that diplomacy is urgently needed to bring the region back from the brink by addressing four key issues: clarifying the role of the U.N. Intervention Brigade to address legitimate Congolese and Rwandan security interests; advancing consultations between the Congolese government and the opposition; keeping Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda on track with their peace process obligations; and accelerating initiatives for regional economic integration.
The U.S. on July 23 called on Rwanda to end any support for M23, citing evidence of involvement by Rwandan military officials. Rwanda denies supporting the rebels, and alleges that the FDLR, a Rwandan Hutu militia founded by participants in Rwanda’s genocide and based in eastern Congo, remains a security threat to Rwanda.
Kerry will preside over the July 25 ministerial meeting in New York to push for implementation of a peace accord signed in February by 11 African nations and four international organizations. The accord aims to end the cycles of conflict and crisis in eastern Congo and to support an effective peace process in Africa’s Great Lakes region.
Co-author Bafilemba stated:
“Despite the tensions, the February accord represents an opportunity for the parties to cooperatively address root causes of conflict in my country and to spare its eastern part more bloodshed. The most urgent issue is a lack of agreement among countries that signed the February accord, particularly Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania, and South Africa, about the scope of the U.N. Intervention Brigade’s offensive mandate. The signatories need to agree on which armed groups this brigade will target and how it will go after them. Even if a region-wide shooting war might not yet be imminent, the U.S. and the U.N. must act fast to prevent Congo’s escalating crisis from triggering wider conflict.”
Enough Project Co-founder John Prendergast stated:
"A critical part of the solution to the conflict will be effective regional economic integration, something that the UN Security Council meeting can ensure is recognized as an urgent priority. Cross-border economic projects and transparent mineral certification provide win-win scenarios for all regional parties and create the most powerful incentive for peace and stability. Such projects must be done transparently and through the rule of law, as secret deals will only lead to corruption, smuggling, and escalating violence."
The eleven countries who signed the February 24 accord, known as the “11+4” Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework, are Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, the Central African Republic, Angola, Uganda, South Sudan, South Africa, Tanzania, and Congo-Brazzaville. The four organizations who co-signed are the United Nations, the African Union, the Southern African Development Community, and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region. The accord calls for political reforms in Congo, neighbors to refrain from meddling in Congo’s affairs, and the international community to assist Congo to reform.
The Enough Project is a project of the Center for American Progress to end genocide and crimes against humanity. Founded in 2007, Enough focuses on the crises in Sudan, South Sudan, eastern Congo, and areas affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army. Enough conducts intensive field research, develops practical policies to address these crises, and shares sensible tools to empower citizens and groups working for change. To learn more about Enough, go to www.enoughproject.org.
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