FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Vanessa Parra, 202-904-0319
Statement by Mark Malan on the Kivus Conference on Peace, Security and Development
Peacebuilding Program Officer, Refugees International
“The ongoing Kivus Conference on Peace, Security and Development in Goma is urgent and long overdue for the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Eight years after the Lusaka cease-fire agreement and a year after democratic elections, the people of North and South Kivu are still at the mercy of thousands of armed belligerents fighting for and against the Congolese government, and often among themselves. The armed groups all have one thing in common. Without exception, they have preyed off the local population and are responsible for gross human rights abuses.
“The Kivu provinces are vital on their own terms – but they are also the key to the overall peace and transition process in the DR Congo. The conveners and all parties participating in the conference must seize this rare opportunity to engage seriously and genuinely in working towards a negotiated solution to the fundamental issues that have long fueled the crisis in eastern DRC and the Great Lakes region. It is they who have suffered most, and they who have the most to lose.
“Over the last year in North and South Kivu alone, some 430,000 people have been displaced by continuing violence, most of them women and children. The recent escalation of hostilities to a full-scale confrontation between the government forces (FARDC), supported logistically by the UN peacekeeping mission (MONUC), and the forces of the renegade general Laurent Nkunda, has resulted in massive new waves of displacement. The ongoing suffering and loss of life and livelihood should be totally unacceptable to the Congolese government, MONUC, and the international community.
“Refugees International has consistently called for the root causes of the crisis in eastern DRC to be addressed peacefully and politically, as opposed to militarily. The military option has been tried multiple times over the years, each time unsuccessfully – resulting in reprisal attacks and massive new displacement. Government attacks on Rwandan militias in South Kivu have failed to do anything but add to the litany of suffering, human rights abuses and bloodshed in the province. Similarly, the recent massive government offensive against the recalcitrant forces of Nkunda succeeded in displacing tens of thousands of civilians, but failed to provide any military advantage or enhance security.
“However, the recent failed government offensive had one positive outcome – it exposed the folly of a strategy of ‘pacifying’ the eastern DR Congo by force of arms, and blunted the government’s enthusiasm for a ‘military solution.’ The peace conference at last provides a possible forum to begin open, honest dialogue and negotiation to end the violence and create a peaceful future for all the people of the Kivus – and ultimately, for all Congolese.
“The conference in Goma can only lay the foundations for ongoing dialogue; a protracted and sustained political process is still needed to resolve citizenship as well as land ownership and usage issues. These issues cannot be satisfactorily addressed around a table, in a matter of days, without a thorough analysis that reaches down to the village level. However, the foundations of trust can be built in Goma, and a solid cease-fire agreed to so that peaceful dialogue can continue.” ###
Refugees International is a 28-year-old advocacy organization based in Washington, DC that advocates to end refugee crises.