In an effort to end decades of conflict in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Congolese government and 10 other African nations have signed an agreement in which the Congolese leaders commit to make progress in securing and governing their territory and all signatories commit not to interfere in the internal affairs of their neighbors. The United States strongly supports the initiative as a preliminary step in restoring peace and stability in the troubled region.
Violence has plagued the eastern provinces of the DRC for more than two decades, fueled by local and foreign armed groups seeking political change or control over economic resources. According to humanitarian estimates, more than 5 million people have died as a direct or indirect result of the fighting, and more than 2 million are currently displaced from their homes.
The regional agreement, mediated by the United Nations and signed February 24 at African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, commits the signatories not to interfere in the DRC or tolerate or support in any way armed groups that do. In turn, the DRC government committed to reform and develop its security forces and to consolidate state authority in eastern areas of the vast nation.
Meanwhile, the U.N. will review its peacekeeping force in the DRC, known as MONUSCO, to better protect civilians and to help the country address its security challenges. This sets the stage for the creation of a regional intervention brigade with a mandate to enforce peace in the eastern provinces.
Signing the pact were the DRC, Rwanda, Burundi, Central African Republic, Angola, Uganda, South Sudan, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and the Republic of Congo. The UN, African Union, Southern African Development Community, and the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region signed as guarantors of the agreement.
The framework needs to be a foundation, both within the DRC and the region, for a sustained and serious dialogue to ensure that the signatories hold each other accountable for their commitments. We urge the parties to quickly establish concrete follow-up mechanisms for implementing the framework at the national and regional levels, and we are prepared to support this process.