Democratic Republic of Congo still unstable, warns Christian Aid

APA Congolese woman walks past United Nations peacekeepers from Uruguay as they stand guard on a street in Goma, eastern DRC, on 13 July

News that the M23 leadership has abandoned its rebellion in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was welcomed by peace groups all over the globe earlier this month, but Christian Aid warns this will not provide a "quick fix" solution to ongoing instability in the African country.

Plans for the DRC government and the M23 rebels to sign a peace agreement on Monday night were abandoned after talks broke down. Some of the rebels have surrendered while many have gone into hiding or fled to other countries, including Uganda and Rwanda.

Chantel Daniels, Christian Aid's senior policy and conflict advisor, has warned that this is just "the beginning of long-awaited progress on building peace and stability in the DRC and the region as a whole".

She said that other armed groups remained a threat, and posed significant challenges for the DRC and Great Lakes region.

"The M23 are by no means the only armed group operating in the east where the state has little or no control," she warned.

She called the dissolution of the M23 "a significant success", but warned that peacekeepers must "be wary of assuming that [it] is a quick fix solution to the problems stemming from chronic instability in eastern DRC".

"It certainly signifies an important milestone for stability, but whether this is a genuine turning point in the DRC's cycle of conflict and violence has yet to be seen," she noted.

Daniels asserted that long-term assistance to enable displaced civilians to return home is now crucial, as well as reintegrating members of the armed groups back into society.

"Violent clashes between the M23 and other rebel groups … have resulted in more than 700,000 people fleeing their homes to seek refuge in camps, host families, or in neighboring countries, bringing the total number of people displaced in North Kivu alone to over one million.

"The oft referred need to 'neutralise' armed groups can only be sustainable if there are renewed efforts in the fields of disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) of combatants. Such activities need to focus on the reintegration of these men and women back into communities and prevent general integration into the FARDC."

Daniels asserted that strong political processes and institutional reforms are needed, including the improvement of the country's security sector, strengthening government transparency and accountability, and addressing inter-community tensions around land and ethnicity.

She also called on international organisations to continue their assistance in the DRC, saying "sustained commitment" is necessary for peace.