The fragile ceasefire in the Democratic Republic of Congo is lasting well after its agreement earlier this week.
General Laurent Nkunda’s has been leading a rebel military faction against government forces. Nkunda claims that he is fighting to protect the Tutsi community from attack while DRC President Kabila believes that he is “protecting the population.”
“For us, Congo is under occupation. An occupation of negative forces protected by our Government. And our Government has betrayed his people,” commented Nkunda.
This week has seen the capture of the eastern town of Rutshuru by Nkunda’s forces. This takeover seems to have been met by a largely frosty reception as citizens show unease at the new leadership. Nkunda’s attempts to reassure citizens that they will be safe under his occupation seem to have been met with a limited response.
Nkunda met with Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria and UN representative for the Congo, and publicly agreed to engage in peace negotiations with the government of the DRC. The UN committee has since confirmed that they will move troops into eastern rebel strongholds.
Many have sought refuge in one of the United Nations camps. Children have suffered heavily as a result of the crisis becoming coveted resources for rebel forces. Young teenagers are being kidnapped from their homes, given machine guns and trained as soldiers. One estimate suggests that around 3,000 “child soldiers” have sacrificed their lives fighting against the national army.
While this development seems like a positive step toward peace there is still need for further cooperation and continued support of the peace building process. President Kabila promised that he would achieve this when he was elected. This is his chance to prove his critics wrong.