OPINION: The Goma Agreement: Chronicle of a missed opportunity?

We were very sceptical when in December 2007 we received the first papers for a conference which was to be held in Goma on the subject of the Kivus.
We thought the terms of reference were ambiguous. On one hand they were the expression of an ambition to resolve the many complex problems of eastern Congo. On the other, the organisers cleared a way through the explosive ad hoc politico-military situation resulting from the failure to eliminate Nkunda’s forces. Although we always wanted a negotiated solution because a purely military one had a huge risk of getting out of control, we felt that this should be by diplomacy channels and not through a conference, which would give Nkunda a legitimacy he did not deserve.
In fact we did not expect much from this event which had no clear mandate, with too short a period of preparation between the initial announcement and the holding of the conference. We were aware of misgivings, even total rejection of the basic notion of such a conference by the general public because the local communities did not feel involved at all.
With our friends in the  Congolese civil society we followed the work of the conference very closely. We were happy when the organisers of the conference, the presidents of the CEI and of the National Assembly, Abbot Apollinaire Malu-Malu and the Hon. Vital Kamerhe, were able to capture and capitalise on the momentum which developed in the conference hall. We applauded the unexpected result of the conference, especially the signing of the “Actes d’engagement à la paix” on January 23th 2008 (one agreement for North and one for South Kivu).This agreement came several months after the Nairobi Agreement, signed on November 9th 2007 by Rwanda and the Congo on a common approach to the threat posed by the FDLR and the Interahamwe to the stability and security of the region. The results of the Nairobi and Goma meetings were important steps forward, provided that they were respected and acted upon. The two agreements constituted indispensible elements for one single peace process,  a real window of opportunities.
Nobody would be so naïve as to believe that such an agreement would immediately translate into action on the ground. Even if the signing of the agreement did not end hostilities, we could be happy that a follow up mechanism was in place. It might proceed at a snail’s pace but nonetheless it did represent real progress.
Hostilities have never ceased. Two years after the elections and 8 months after the signature of the Goma Agreement the people of eastern Congo suffer the same horrors as they have for a long time.  The militias continue to recruit, even children. The Goma Agreement is not respected by many of the signatories who still confront each other, kill, loot and rape. New armed movements are born and forge new alliances in a politico-military context which keeps changing. The Nairobi Accord exists only on paper and remains a diplomatic reality. But it is not felt on the ground.
In the last few days we have seen a deterioration of the situation. Laurent Nkunda’s CNDP has launched an offensive against the government army, an army which is still not unified and is credible neither operationally nor as an instrument for restoring the state. As with all the other armed groups in Kivu, the army lives on the back of the population and is involved in the illegal exploitation of minerals. Monuc must not only put an end to the CNPD offensive but also oblige Nkunda to abandon the positions he has just occupied. The international community must put real pressure on the Congolese signatories of the Goma Accord to put their commitments into practice and put pressure on Rwanda to cut off all support to Nkunda from its territory. Without these measures the Goma Accord will no longer exist. It will be reduced to a parenthesis in the history of the “somalification” of the country.
Kris Berwouts, Director EurAc
EurAc is the European NGO Network for lobby on Central Africa with 50 member-organisations in 13 countries.

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