Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Peace Agreement on Hold, 5.4 Million Reported Dead

The Peace Conference that was supposed to end this past weekend is delayed once again to a date to be determined. The main sticking point is the status of the main protagonist, Laurent Nkunda of the National Council for the Defense of the Congolese People (CNDP). Nkunda has an arrest warrent out for war crimes and the CNDP would like for all belligerents to receive amnesty as was done before the Intercongolese Dialogue of 2002. Other sticking points include the Mai Mia militia who are calling for the CNDP to disarm and the CNDP claims it will not disarm or demobilize until its arch enemy, the Interahamwe (Rwandan Hutus) do the same.

The deal on the table that would ostensibly bring the conflict to an end is an immediate ceasefire, the phased withdrawal of all rebel forces in North Kivu province and resettlement of thousands of villagers, while the United Nations troops police a buffer zone.

Even if a deal is struck the core issues still have to be addressed, two of which are the return of the Interahamwe to Rwanda and the cessation of the interference in the Congo by Rwanda. Rwanda must create political space for the return of the Rwanda Hutu currently in the Congo.

As a deal appears to be in the making the International Rescue Committee (IRC) released its latest report on the conflict in the Congo. The report highlighted a number of facts:
1. 5.4 million Congolese have died as a result of the conflict since 1998 (The study did not address the deaths from the first invasion of the Congo by Rwanda in 1996).

2. Most of the deaths are a result of preventable illnesses such as malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia and malnutrition.

3. An average 45,000 people are dying each month, half of the deaths are among children less than 5 years old, which is enormously disproportionate considering that this cohort only accounts for 19 percent of the population.


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