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Is DR Congo peace only 'paper thin'?

New peace plan reads like a wish list, but resilient Congolese need one that will help them reconstruct their country.
Last modified: 24 Feb 2013 23:57

The framework plan for peace and security in the Democratic Republic of Congo reads like a wish list. As such, it looks great "on paper".

The Congolese government has promised to  "continue, and deepen security sector reform, particularly with respect to the Army and Police. To make progress with regard to decentralisation, and “to further economic development".

Among the commitments from regional powers, including Rwanda and Uganda, is "not to interfere in the internal affairs of neighbouring countries", and perhaps crucially, "neither tolerate nor provide assistance or support of any kind to armed groups".

The agreement, however, is extremely vague. Although four bodies - the UN, African Union, The International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, Southern African Development Community - will all oversee the process, it is unclear how much power these groups will have if things go wrong.

A new special UN envoy will be appointed, but how will he or she make sure that leaders actually stick to their word? There are also questions over who is going to pay for all of this. The UN is already spending more than $1bn a year on its peacekeeping mission, known as MONUSCO, in the country.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon has called for "financial support" from the international community and stakeholders.

Jason Stearns, an expert in the region, has said:  “Some of the principles seem to make that action plan difficult."

He continued: "The oversight mechanism for Congolese state reform is now only made up of the Congolese government. Donors merely provide support to the government, and civil society is not mentioned at all. Will a Congolese government that has hitherto been reluctant to reform its institutions be able to oversee itself?"

The UN’s Ban wants "the concerned heads of state and government to meet at least twice a year, on the sidelines of the AU summits and in the margins of the United Nations General Assembly, to review progress on the implementation of the framework and agree on the way forward".

That is clearly not enough, especially if there are rapid developments on the ground, as there was when M23 took Goma in November. There is no mention of M23, a rebel group that has grown in power, building almost a state with in a state with its own government and tax collection.

There is a plan to send a neutral African intervention brigade of thousands of soldiers, with new powers to fight the rebels. The force would be backed up by intelligence collected by unmanned aerial drones.

Civil society groups in Congo complain they were not consulted at all. Philippa Crosland-Taylor, Oxfam’s deputy regional director, said: “There is a long way to go and a lot to do before this framework brings any change for people caught up in the conflict."

The charity  wants the new framework to "reinvigorate the 2006 Pact on Security, Stability and Development, with a particular emphasis on tackling key local issues such the lack of development, tensions over land rights, and the complex power and ethnic dimensions of the conflict".

There is no doubt that the DR Congo is one of the most neglected countries in the world. Having reported from the country for the past two years, however, I have found that its people remain resilient.

What is needed is a a transparent peace process, one that will help the Congolese reconstruct their own country.