from 10 Conflicts to Watch in 2013 | Foreign Policy
by Louise Arbour
Democratic Republic of the Congo
The April 2012 mutiny in the east by M23 rebels, former rebels turned military turned rebels again, created a distinct feeling of déja vu. Once again, after so many years of conflict, regional and international actors are left scrambling to contain an insurgent rebel group, with a range of ostensibly domestic demands but clearly profiting from external backing, and prevent another regional war in the DRC. The consequences of the latest round of violence have been tragic for civilians, with reports emerging of wide-scale human rights abuses, extrajudicial executions targeting civil society, and massive displacement of local populations.
Mediation efforts by the regional International Conference of the Great Lakes Region have seen the withdrawal of M23 from the eastern city of Goma and the initiation of peace talks, but the risk of repeated rebellion and widespread violence remain. Previous attempts at post-conflict reconstruction in the DRC have met with little success. Without adequate pressure on both the DRC government and Rwanda-backed rebels to enact crucial governance reforms and open political dialogue, the sad history of civil conflict will likely continue to repeat itself in the DRC in 2013.
Congo’s dismal state should also force the international community to take a hard look at its own behavior. Ten years into a massive commitment to shore up stability in the DRC, bring legitimacy to the government in Kinshasa, and protect civilians in the east, the situation is going from bad to worse. The government of President Joseph Kabila lacks national buy-in; the citizens of the eastern Kivu provinces — despite the presence of the largest-ever U.N. peacekeeping operation — remain woefully unprotected; and the country’s integrity remains prey to the whims of predatory neighbors.
Photo: EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection/Flickr