13 May 2008
Posted to the web 13 May 2008
Congo’s reconstruction hinges on the Ituri district, where a new integrated peace-building strategy is required to prevent another round of violence.
Congo: Four Priorities for Sustainable Peace in Ituri, the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines the local conflict’s root causes, including unequal access to land and unfair sharing of revenues from exploitation of natural resource. It analyses in detail a district that has too often been ignored by Kinshasa and which now needs a strategy involving national and provincial institutions, with the active support of the UN Mission in Congo (MONUC) and donors.
“The risk of renewed violence in Ituri is limited today by the presence of the UN Mission, the dismantling of the majority of armed groups and the local population’s war weariness”, says David Mugnier, Crisis Group’s Central Africa Project Director. “To ensure lasting stabilisation, however, it is essential to simultaneously tackle the conflict’s root causes and abandon purely reactive or short-term approaches”.
The international community has worked hard to take weapons away from armed groups and has to a large extent assumed the lead in the political and military process that has allowed for the progressive surrender of those militias during the transition process.
Beyond the issue of disarmament and in view of the risk that the local elections in 2009 could trigger renewed violence, however, further challenges have to be addressed. Land-related tensions that were at the origin of the conflict have not been eased and constantly threaten to lead to new inter-ethnic confrontations. With the return of refugees to their homes, a resurgence of those tensions seems inevitable. It is, therefore, indispensable to take preventive measures on the ground and to clarify the judicial muddle on land law and the status of chieftainships.
The uneven, opaque distribution of revenues from exploitation of gold, collection of customs fees and extraction of oil at Lake Albert also risks renewing tensions. It is critical to the peace process to establish a framework for transparent treatment of Ituri’s resources, to dismantle local mafia networks that extract resources from mining and forestry and to manage expectations raised by the discovery of oil at Lake Albert.
“If peace is to be consolidated, a voluntary and integrated approach is required that reunites national and regional institutions and international partners”, says Francois Grignon, Director of Crisis Group’s Africa Program. “Otherwise, the return of chaos is likely, which would signify the failure of the peace process”.