The top United Nations envoy to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has hailed an accord signed yesterday between the Government and a rebel group that was a key combatant in fierce fighting, which uprooted hundreds of thousands of people last year, in the country’s east.
“The population of the eastern DRC, above all women and children, have been for too long the victims of armed conflict, displacement and sexual violence,” Alan Doss, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, said after taking part in the signing ceremony of a political and security agreement between the Government and the National Congress for People’s Defence (CNDP).
“If they are respected, these accords could have an extremely positive impact on the life of the people of the two Kivus,” added Mr. Doss, who also heads the UN peacekeeping mission (MONUC), referring to the North and South Kivu provinces which were most affected by the fighting that flared up last August.
In its combat with national armed forces, known as the FARDC, that displaced some 250,000 people last year, the mainly Tutsi CNDP, formerly led by renegade general Laurent Nkunda, nearly overran the North Kivu capital of Goma, the scene of yesterday’s signing ceremony.
MONUC has re-deployed some 90 per cent of its nearly 17,500 peacekeepers to the strife-torn east, where not only the CNDP and the Government army, but also the mainly Hutu Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and other rebel groups such as the Mayi Mayi have repeatedly clashed in various permutations and shifting alliances.
Yesterday’s accords, reached after months of negotiations, foresee the end of all hostilities, the transformation of armed groups into political parties and the return of refugees and displaced persons, according to a MONUC press release.
The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region, Olusegun Obansanjo, and his African Union counterpart, Benjamin Mpaka, co-facilitated the talks and were also present at the signing ceremony.
Conflict in the east continues, however, as a joint offensive by the DRC and Rwanda has not stopped the FDLR’s violence and joint operations with Uganda failed to end the threat of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel group that originated in the latter country.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported today that another 11,000 people have been driven from an area around the village of Banda in north-eastern DRC this month by LRA raids, bringing the total number of people displaced by them in the Haut Uele district of Oriental province to over 188,000 in the last six months.
Since September 2008, over 990 Congolese have been murdered by the LRA and some 750 abducted, the vast majority of them children, whom the group is notorious for forcing into combat or utilizing as sex slaves.