On January twenty third of this year, an international effort to end the crisis in eastern Congo culminated in the signing of the Goma Peace Agreement, a negotiated cease-fire between the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and representatives of twenty-three Congolese armed groups. But the conflict is not yet over.
Since 1994, the Democratic Republic of Congo has suffered through a bloody civil war, which degenerated into ethnic strife, costing millions of lives. And no one suffered more than the people of the Kivu provinces. Insurgents have brutalized the population. Sexual assault is rampant throughout the area, and only rarely is it investigated.
The presence of ex-Rwandan Armed Forces, Rwandan Interahamwe militia, among whom are perpetrators of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, remains the single greatest threat to peace in the Congo and in the African Great Lakes.
The signing of the Goma Peace agreement, coupled with the Nairobi Communique and the Ngordoto Agreement, is a good start, but now it is time to implement the commitments made by the signatories. All armed groups in the area must impose more discipline on their troops and observe the cease-fire. Congolese armed rebel groups must either disarm or join the Congolese government army for retraining. The Congolese government must vigorously pursue the eradication of the culture of lawlessness in the Kivu provinces, protect the civilian population and prosecute those who commit crimes. And all signatories must work with the international community to stabilize the region.
The Kivus Conference comes as part of an extended process, which includes U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s December meetings with the Great Lakes heads of State. "We see the Kivus Conference as the continuation of an inclusive process…to resolve the underlying causes of conflict in eastern Congo and complete and urgently implement a framework for lasting peace."