Oxfam ‘sceptical’ about DR Congo peace agreement

Oxfam ‘sceptical’ about DR Congo peace agreement

Humanitarian agency Oxford International expressed a huge dose of ‘scepticism’ about the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) framework for peace signed on Sunday in the Ethiopian capital Addis-Ababa, saying it will fail to end the suffering of millions of people in the east of the country unless concrete actions were taken to ensure leaders stuck to the deal and tackled key issues of land, ethnicity and development.

Oxford deputy regional director Philippa Crosland-Taylor said while the agreement was a positive step at a critical moment, it however fell short of what was needed to halt decades of conflict.

“The real deal will begin (now) in villages across eastern Congo where leaders must prove that this plan is more than a ceremonial piece of paper. Signing is easy – the hard work starts now,” Crosland-Taylor said in a statement posted on the agency’s website.

“The crisis is worse than ever and it’s good news that leaders have come together, but what happens over the next few months will make or break the deal.”

She said many previous agreements have looked good on paper but have never been implemented, adding that there is a long way to go and a lot to do before this framework brings any change for people caught up in the conflict.

Oxfam said that national civil society must play a key role in shaping the details as the process moves ahead, and holding their governments accountable to what they have signed. The organisation regretted that the framework has so far involved little or no civil society consultation.

Oxfam’s call for civil society to play a greater role is unlikely to be heeded in a country where the government has centralised all aspects of governance, and overlooks all the components of civil society, which includes churches, human rights groups and media.

Also, anyone or any organisation that attempts to hold the Congolese government accountable for its actions is likely to face the full wrath of the ‘law’, which is administered by brutal and cruel agents of security forces, intelligence services and Republican Guard.

Scores of people, including university lecturers, journalists, opposition politicians, students activists and high-ranking army officers ‘suspected of plotting a coup’, are being detained in undisclosed locations without trial and family visit.

Human Rights Watch, in its World Report 2013 published in early February, painted a bleak picture of Joseph Kabila’s government’s human rights record.

The new agreement, signed under the patronage of the UN chief, will see about 4000 troops from regional bloc SADC deployed in the east of the country and US drones patrolling the skies of the three mineral-rich provinces, which Paul Kagame and Yoweri Museveni want to seize and attach to Rwanda and Uganda, respectively.

Oxfam said any new force deployed in these areas must have strict guidelines that respect international humanitarian law and minimise civilian casualties.

Meanwhile, the rebel group M23 confirmed yesterday that ‘traitor’ Jean-Marie Runiga has been chased out from the group, and fired as the head of the political wing of the organisation, and therefore replaced by General Sultani Makenga.

Negotiations between the M23 and the Kinshasa government, which critics of the government have described as a ‘farce’, continue in Kampala without any hope of conclusion and signing of an agreement.

*Photo from Oddballpilot.com. A crowd of children gathers around a humanitarian aid Caravan in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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