Congolese Prime Minister Matata Ponyo Mapon’s visit to Washington DC brought renewed attention on the dire humanitarian situation and unstable security in eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Prime Minister Matata, credited with stabilizing the Congolese economy and the exchange rate of the Congolese Franc, touted the economic reforms underway, while insisting that insecurity in the Kivu region remains a significant impediment to economic development.
When asked on the prospects for peace, the Prime Minister Matata urged the United States to seriously examine findings of the latest United Nations Group of Experts report, which links Rwandan officials to the M23 rebel group. He also stressed that the US should support ongoing negotiations in Uganda’s capital Kampala.
“Peace is really now at our reach in the whole of the DRC,” Prime Minister Matata told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
“If M23 rebels did not have external support to come and destabilize both territories, by now, we would have had peace and security on the whole of the DRC,” he added.
According to Cynthia Akuetteh, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of African Affairs, the United States backs political dialogue between DRC and its neighbors, as well as regional initiatives for peace. While discussing the deplorable humanitarian conditions in the region, Akuetteh insisted on the need for security sector reform and the extension of governance in the Kivus for lasting stability.
Congo Analyst Jason Stearns reported on Wednesday that the Congolese and M23 delegations signed on the first part of a deal, which is an evaluation of the March 23, 2009 agreement, in particular aspects of the accord that have been poorly or not at all implemented. Stearns noted that the next part of the peace deal, relating to the integration of M23 to the national army, is the most crucial yet.
The Congolese government is reportedly willing to integrate M23 soldiers below the rank of major into the national army, but wants commanders, who are under national or international arrests warrants, to be arrested. This includes, Bosco Ntaganda, Sultani Makenga, Innocent Zimurinda, Baudouin Ngaruye, and Innocent Kaina. Since these individuals are in position of leadership, M23 is unlikely to agree to such a deal.
Based on estimates by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), over 900,000 people are currently living as internally displaced persons in North Kivu; an estimated 500,000 have been displaced since fighting between the FARDC and the M23 rebel group began in April. The situation in Goma remains calm but tense as an accrued circulation of weapons has created a climate of insecurity that is affecting thousands of displaced people and delaying their return to normal life.