Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Africa: Understanding Conflict in Eastern Congo -The Ruzizi Plain

Source: International Crisis Group © 2013 |

The Framework Agreement signed by the UN, African organisations and eleven countries and the deployment of an intervention brigade in North Kivu are positive steps, but conflicts in the Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo also require a bottom-up approach aimed at improving intercommunal relations and restoring peace at the local level.

In its latest report, Understanding Conflict in Eastern Congo (I): The Ruzizi Plain, the International Crisis Group examines the longstanding conflict in the Ruzizi plain. Like most of the conflicts in eastern Congo, it is rooted in local disputes and competition between communities for land and economic opportunities, and requires tailored, grassroots solutions that go beyond a military response. This report is the first in a series on the under-reported local dimension of conflicts in eastern Congo.
The report’s major findings and recommendations are:
  • The February 2013 Framework Agreement, sponsored by the UN Secretary-General, illustrates that stabilisation initiatives in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have tended to be limited to military action against armed groups and top-down state building, which address symptoms rather than causes of conflict.
  • In the Ruzizi plain, the fight between Barundi and Bafuliro communities was revived by the murder of a Barundi leader on 25 April 2012. The UN mission in DRC (MONUSCO) and the Congolese government tried to mediate, but these attempts and deployment of security forces did not restore peace.
  • Traditional leaders play a key role in local governance, especially in land management, and in local conflicts. Some fuel intercommunal violence and turn armed groups into their private security forces.
  • The law on customary powers needs to be explained and understood locally, and customary chiefs need to understand and fulfil their functions in accordance with the law. At the same time, the state’s local services need to be fully functional, especially in the field of land management.
“A grassroots strategy to address the Ruzizi plain conflict should include enhancing control of customary powers, setting up impartial land management institutions and initiating intercommunal dialogue and projects”, says Marc-AndrĂ© Lagrange, Crisis Group’s Central Africa Senior Analyst.

“Unless peacemakers do invest time, energy and money in understanding local geopolitics, peace will remain elusive”, says Comfort Ero, Crisis Group’s Africa Program Director. “The conflicts in eastern Congo can only be resolved by targeted, joint and coordinated action of the national authorities, the local actors and foreign partners”.