Today, Sunday 24 February, the heads of state of eleven countries have signed a peace and security agreement addressing the conflicts in and around eastern Congo. It’s a potentially important step – but it’s the start of a long process, not the end of it.
The Peace and Security Cooperation Framework for the DRC and the Region is pithily summed up by South African President Jacob Zuma, one of the signatories, as a guide out of the morass.
The UN Special Representative in DR Congo, Roger Meece, has already asked the UN Security Council for additional military support for the UN operation. But as International Alert‘s statement about the agreement points out, what is needed is a two track approach targeting both the drivers of violence within DRC and in the region.
There have been previous regional agreements; if this one is to work, it has to generate the space for the protagonists to discuss and work on the issues that divide them in as open and frank a way as possible. As our report Ending the Deadlock explores in detail, DRC has a multiplicity of needs and an extra UN battalion is at best only a partial contribution to a short-term solution. At worst it could become part of the problem. More important is a raft of reforms of governance, the security sector and land management, driven for once by the needs of the ordinary citizens of DRC.
The agreement is a good step forward but there is still a need for an enormous amount of work and international support for the efforts of the people of DRC and the region in order to build a real peace.