The Kivu provinces in east Congo have been subject to a large regional game for almost twenty years. With a lack of central authority the local militia groups have had full reign for years all competing for military, political and economic power in an area rich in natural resources, often at the expense of citizen safety. With the peace agreement for east Congo which was signed by African leaders on 24 February 2013 there seems to be optimism about the situation in east Congo.
Dutch parliamentarians, foreign policy makers, representatives of the African diaspora, NGO’s and other lobbyists gathered at a seminar in the Dutch Parliament to discuss the window of opportunity which has come about for durable and sustainable peace in Congo.
One of the keynote speakers at the event was Hon. François-Xavier de Donnea, political coordinator for the AWEPA programme in the Democratic Republic Congo and Chair of the Commission for External Relations of the Belgian Chamber of Representatives. “I don’t believe in a military solution in East Congo, the solution has to be political with help of the neighbouring countries which should only interfere in a positive manner” said Hon. de Donnea. He furthermore stressed the importance of stabilization and regional integration of Congo for example by connecting electricity networks, trans-regional roads, customs duties etc.
Mr. Alphonse Muambi, publicist and author of the book “You Can’t Eat Democracy”, shared his experiences as election observer in Congo and outlined the situation from the past until the present. He mentioned the necessity to avoid talking about the issues from an ethnic point of view because that is exactly what rebel movements like the M23 would like us to do.
Members of the Congolese diaspora stated that their role is very important in finding solutions. They know the people, the country and can provide valuable advice on how to tackle the issues.
Mr. Pascal Richard, project-coordinator for the Great Lakes region at the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC) added that multi-actor collaboration and local ownership are also relevant factors to make the peace agreement a success. However, the willingness of the actors involved is questionable at various levels.
The discussions were chaired by Hon. Ingrid de Caluwé, Member of the Dutch Parliament and Member of the AWEPA Section in the Dutch Parliament, who informed the participants that the Great Lakes Region is currently high on the political agenda in the Dutch Parliament. Together with Hon. Agnes Mulder, Member of the Dutch Parliament she puts an effort in increasing the attention for support to the situation in Congo and the Great Lakes Region. This is in line with the Dutch foreign policy of directing the development programmes towards the region.