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  • Written by IRIN so/aw/am/rz

DRC: Analysts cautious about significance of M23 peace delcaration

Congolese refugees board a truck at Bunagana on the Uganda-DRC border. Over 800,000 may been displaced by conflict since it began March 2012. Government forces captured the M23 rebels main base in Bunagana on October 30, 2013. The sides declared an end to hostilities on December 12. Photo:  Samuel Okiror/IRIN, May 2012.The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the former rebel group known as the M23 Movement signed declarations on 12 December formalizing agreements to end hostilities in eastern DRC.

The declarations, together with a Final Communique on the Kampala Dialogue, were released by the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and the Southern African Development Community - which together sponsored almost a year of fitful peace talks in the Ugandan capital. The documents articulated each sides’ commitments on a range of issues, including M23’s renunciation of rebellion and transformation into a political party; the government’s limited offer of amnesty to combatants; the release of prisoners; the demobilization and reintegration of former rebels; national reconciliation and justice; and social security and economic reforms.

Kinshasa also committed itself to quickly moving ahead to facilitate the return of refugees, in line with tripartite agreements signed with neighbouring states, and to help internally displaced civilians, who number more than two million in eastern DRC, go back home.

Through his spokesman, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the declarations constituted a “positive step towards ending cycles of deadly conflicts that have caused immense suffering to the Congolese people.”

Yet analysts remain divided on whether political dialogue or military means is best to address the problem of armed rebellion in eastern DRC, even as focus now shifts to the northeastern Orientale Province, after relative success in North Kivu. Some argue for a mix of both: “neutralizing” armed groups while engaging in security sector and institutional reforms.

  • Written by Niamh Griffin

'We have to stay, to die. We remain there, we knew they are coming.'

Road to South Sudan outside Lacor Hospital, Gulu in Northern Uganda, where Fr Peter Okello is now based. He dreams of visiting newly independent South Sudan but struggles to forget his experience of Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army. Photo: Niamh Griffin.Many Irish families have a missionary relative, a visitor who shivers by the fire once a year or less. Ruán Magan spoke to some of these extraordinary ‘Lifers’ for RTÉ last night. However, they are not alone in having sacrificied a family life and put their own lives at risk to bring hope to others.

Travelling in Uganda last year I met an elderly Sudanese missionary who dreams of sniffing the air in newly independent South Sudan. And wishes he could leave his memories of warlord Joseph Kony behind.

Now 83, Fr Peter Okello spends his days on his veranda at the missionary-run Lacor Hospital in Gulu. Still tall and broad-shouldered, he walks slowly but with so many visitors, he hardly needs to move. As we talk mechanics, nurses and other priests drop by to talk or just sit nearby.

In 2008 Fr Peter was one of three missionaries at Duru Mission in the Congo. The Lord’s Resistance Army under Kony was fading then*, but still strong in pockets along the borderlands.

‘The last mission I left, we were forced to leave. We escaped death, we were at their mercy. They took everything away, the rebels, the people of Kony,’ he says.

“The people around the mission did not run away, so according to our rules, if even one person does not run away, then we have to stay, to die. We remain there, we knew they are coming.”

  • Written by Frank Humphreys

Sensationalism or silence in the Congo: rape, death and the media

En route to Panzi Hospital in South Kivu, DRC. According to journalist André Thiel, this Congolese woman was kidnapped and raped for six years by Hutu rebels. Despite family support, she and her daughter have been rejected by villagers. Photo: Flickr/andré thiel.Rape and conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are in the news. Like the daily global toll of avoidable death and illness, wars which do not obviously involve Americans, Europeans or Israelis usually struggle to be noticed.  However, the recent DRC media coverage has not been universally welcomed.

However one looks at it, media coverage of the Democratic Republic of Congo has not been good. 

In the global media covered by the Alertnet world press tracker, between September 2006 (when the press data begins) and April 2007, there were 1,327 stories on the DRC, whereas the Israel-Palestinian, Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts generated 19,946, 29,987 and 43,589 stories respectively.

Yet, a study by the New York-based International Rescue Committee (IRC) across the DR Congo between January 2006 and April 2007 estimated that 45,000 extra people were dying each month from preventable diseases and starvation as a legacy of conflict. That death rate predated 2006, according to the IRC, and showed no sign of abating when the survey ended.

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