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DRC: peace-accord warning

01 March 2013

by a staff reporter


Tense: Joseph Kabila , President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, waits for the signing of the Congo peace agreement, in Addis Ababa, on Sunday

Tense: Joseph Kabila , President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, waits for the signing of the Congo peace agreement, in Addis Ababa, on S...

A PEACE agreement, backed by the United Nations, in the Democractic Republic of Congo (DRC), has been welcomed by African leaders and aid agencies, but they warned that it was "only the beginning".

Just hours after the peace agreement was signed on Sunday, splits in the M23 rebel group, which has been fighting the Congolese government, led to clashes, and up to eight civilian deaths.

The peace deal was signed in the presence of the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, in the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa. Mr Ban said that he hoped that it would bring "an era of peace and stability" to the region.

Up to 800,000 people have been displaced since the M23 rebel group took up arms against the Congolese government in May last year. "It is only the beginning of a comprehensive approach that will require sustained engagement," Mr Ban said.

The agreement could lead to the establishment of a UN intervention force in eastern Congo.

Fighting in the DRC since 1998 has led to the deaths of 5.4 million people from disease, malnutrition, and murder - making it the most devastating conflict since the Second World War.

Leaders from Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, South Africa, the DRC, the Republic of Congo, and South Sudan attended the signing of the peace agreement.

Christian Aid's policy and advocacy adviser for Central Africa, Chantal Daniels, said that the agreement was a "promising first step". She said, however: "A lot needs to happen to make this ambitious framework a reality on the ground. Just signing the agreement isn't enough; it needs to be properly implemented and enforced as well."

She said that the agreement went "far beyond" tackling only the symptoms of poor government, and pledged to work to end foreign backing of rebel groups, and to reform the army and the police, and legal and electoral systems.

"It also recognises that primary responsibility for implementation of the agreement lies with the DRC government and regional states and organisations," she said; "but [it] also needs strong political backing from countries such as the UK, as well as financial support for reforms.

"Measures linked to the implementation of the framework, such as the appointment of a high-profile UN special envoy with the power to mediate on both a domestic and regional level, the inclusion of Congolese civil society, and the tying of donor aid to clear and agreed benchmarks are key issues that need to be addressed in order for the agreement to lead to long-term peace, security, and stabilisation in the DRC and the region."

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