DRC Peace deal a sign of hope but peace remains fragile

 Democratic Republic of Congo
 Advocacy
 22nd Jan 2009

Peace Deal between Government and Rebel Group is a Sign of Hope but Peace Remains Fragile while Civilians Continue to Suffer

NAIROBI, Kenya (22 January, 2009) – The recently agreed upon peace deal between the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the National Congress for People’s Defense (CNDP) rebel group is a step in the right direction, says CARE International. Agency officials however underscore the importance of protecting civilians in an environment that remains highly volatile and vulnerable to human rights abuses.

“Displaced people may now consider returning home but the question remains what they return to and how sustainable is this return?” says Maurizio Crivellaro, CARE’s Country Director in the DRC.

“In theory there is political will on the part of key players to achieve peace,” he adds, “but in reality there is still the risk of inadvertently fueling tensions between rebel groups and witnessing further population displacement in North Kivu, but also in South Kivu and the West Maniema.”

Crivellaro says that the current ceasefire will enable CARE and others to intervene with an increased impact on the damages caused by the war. This includes massive looting in villages, loss of livelihoods, missed seasonal harvesting and extensive psychological trauma experienced by women and children.

Lack of security and periodic fighting have prevented CARE from steadily assisting internally displaced people outside of Goma since the beginning of December. While emergency aid has been provided to many needy families in Goma, others have been stranded in makeshift refugee camps that have multiplied in a very short span of time.

The current cessation of hostilities has paved the way for a joint operation between the Government of Rwanda and the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Reports indicate that hundreds of Rwandan troops have entered eastern DRC to back a Government-led operation against the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), mainly composed of Interahamwe militias who fled to the DRC after the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

“The civilian population remains a potential hostage to the fighting that will occur,” says Crivellaro while warning that the international community must provide adequate protection for civilians who may be caught in the crossfire.

Crivellaro adds that at this point, “Details of the peace agreement remain vague therefore it is hard to know how sustainable peace is but one thing is for certain: a renewed effort to hunt down FDLR militias is likely to create panic among local populations and lead to further displacement.”

CARE in the DRC

CARE has been working in the DRC since 2002, providing services in the areas of health and nutrition, livelihoods, environmental protection, and good governance. Since the onset of this last round of fighting CARE has distributed emergency supplies to about 2500 families living in spontaneous settlement sites and, in partnership with the aid agency Merlin, is running a cholera treatment center in Goma. As part of its emergency response to the latest round of fighting that started this past August, CARE has been providing support to women-headed households. The agency has provided safe delivery kits and feminine hygiene kits which include sanitary napkins and undergarments, and PEP kits (post-exposure prophylaxis kits for HIV) to health centers within Goma and along the northern Goma-to-Rubare axis. CARE and other agencies are working together to create a referral program for survivors of sexual violence, to ensure women receive prompt medical treatment and psychosocial support.

Media Contacts:
To arrange interviews with program staff in the DRC please contact:
Beatrice M. Spadacini, spadacini@ci.or.ke; +254 (0) 725 22 10 36 (Nairobi);
Lurma Rackley, lrackley@care.org; + 404 394 8298 (Atlanta, USA)

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