On Wednesday, U.N. officials and diplomats reported that a peace deal could be signed this month and end two decades of conflict in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The resurging violence in the Congo has forced communities from Rwanda and Uganda to periodically relocate for nearly 20 years. Last May, Red Cross Workers registered close to 3,000 displaced people in one week.
A lasting peace deal between the Congolese government and the rebels would save these communities from further displacement.
African leaders did not sign the deal last week because of a dispute over the command of a newly created regional force that will fight armed groups operating in the eastern Congo.
Herve Ladsous, the U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping said the brigade would be under the same command as the regular United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission’s (MONUSCO) troops. The regular MONUSCO troops conduct patrols and support the Congolese security forces
South Africa, Tanzania and Mozambique; 3 out of 15 member states in the South African Development Community (SADC), argue the enforcement brigade should have its own command separate from MONUSCO. The diplomats of these three countries note the failure of MONUSCO’s current command in the 11-day occupation of the eastern city Goma by M23 rebels.
Ladsous said on Tuesday that all key countries seem ready to sign the deal. He did not state when or where it would be finalized, though discussions have considered mid-February in Africa. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon may be present.
If approved by the U.N. Security Council, the deal would include a three-pronged mandate to prevent the growth of armed groups in the eastern Congo and to disarm them. Unmanned surveillance drones would also track armed militias that are difficult to detect.
U.N. officials said that the creation of an enforcement brigade and the drones within a peacekeeping mission is new for the United Nations. But, U.N. officials insist that an increase in U.N. military activity is not enough to end the fighting without a signed peace agreement between Kinshasa and its neighbors in eastern Congo.
Promisingly, the Congolese government has been negotiating with the M23 rebels, and last week the rebels said they wanted to sign a peace deal with Kinshasa by the end of February.
– Kasey Beduhn