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Nkunda's Bold Front


Conditions are going from bad to worse in an eastern province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the DRC. Insurgent General Laurent Nkunda, trashing a peace agreement he signed in January, has vowed to escalate his revolt against President Joseph Kabila's government and "liberate" that troubled nation. The threat has more bluster to it than strategy, however. If he sincerely wants to help the Congolese people, he should disengage his forces and settle his differences at the bargaining table.

Mr. Nkunda, leading the National Congress for the People, says he is defending Congo's Tutsi minority against attacks from rebels from Rwanda using areas of the eastern DRC as a sanctuary. In four years of fighting, however, his forces have been able to accomplish little more than mayhem, and only in North Kivu province.

Carrying the fight across the rest of the huge central African nation would be difficult and the rebels must know this, given pressure they face from government forces and United Nations peacekeepers. That Mr. Nkunda's announcement followed a long silence on his part and rumors that he may be ill suggest it came more than anything else as a bold way to reclaim the world stage.

A threat is a threat, though, and the United States strongly condemns it and further warns against the conflict distracting the DRC from the root problem causing instability in eastern Congo posed by the ex-Rwandan Armed Forces, the Interahamwe and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda. Dealing definitively with these forces is the key to stability in eastern Congo and the Great Lakes region.

Four years of fighting in the eastern DRC has created a serious humanitarian disaster, displacing tens of thousands of people and disrupting delivery of badly needed food aid. The Goma Agreement and Nairobi Communiqué are the only truly viable frameworks to bring stability to the region. The signatories should respect their commitments and implement them swiftly.
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