Africa Matters is a blog that follows the news and offers analysis of African affairs. Our aim is to delve deeper into the issues of African politics and development. We don’t presume to be experts, and we don’t presume to have all the answers—we are just trying to ask the right questions.

Thursday, January 24

DR Congo Update

While DR Congo's last civil war technically ended in 2002, the country's eastern region remains on the cusp of conflict -- despite a peace accord signed today -- and Congolese across the country continue to die at an astounding pace: 45,000 a month, according to a new study from the International Rescue Committee.

After two weeks of negotiations, three of four key factions have signed a peace agreement in an effort to re-stabilize the east. With government forces, renegade general Laurent Nkunda and various local Mai Mai militias on board, it appears that a long-sought ceasefire is possible, with UN peacekeepers to help.

However, FDLR guerrillas -- mostly Rwandan Hutus -- remain in the region's forests, uninvited to the talks in Goma. Despite a string of pledges to deal with the various armed factions, the government has been unable -- and perhaps unwilling -- to disarm the FDLR, even though they remain central to tensions in North and South Kivu, the eastern provinces at the center of the conflict.

Soberingly, The New York Times analyzes the new IRC report, which also estimates that 5.4 million people have died from war-related causes since 1998, nearly half under five years old. Understandably, diplomatic and humanitarian efforts have focused on the east, allowing problems elsewhere in the country to fester.

A new advocacy network, Congo Global Action, is trying to raise awareness.

For more background on DR Congo's east, see an analysis I published in the Diplomatic Courier this month.