Can Peace Succeed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo?

By John Oryang

War in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has claimed 5 million lives since 1996, and despite including the deadliest conflict since WWII, has been under-reported. While war in the DRC officially ended in 2003, violence continues to this day, and the country has never known a peaceful transition of power.

Last year a breakthrough peace agreement was signed. The Saint Sylvestre agreement, between the government and opposition leaders, was brokered by Catholic bishops (CENCO) and saw President Kabila agree to elections in 2017.

Prominent peace-builder in the DRC, Flory Kazingufu, said the peace deal halted the renewal of civil war.

"If CENCO couldn’t come in, we were going to [ascend] to a total violence and conflict in Congo that would be...would even touch the neighboring country and go through many countries,” Mr Kazingufu told Peace News.

“That's how to tell you how important it was that the signature that was reached," he said.

But CENCO has withdrawn from talks, after violent attacks and calls for protests, and both Congolese and international observers are concerned for peace prospects in the country. Archbishop Marcel Utembi Tapa, from CENCO, has warned the United Nations that a “lack of genuine political will” is jeopardizing the implementation of the accord.

Goma resident Davin Kombi expressed his doubts about the peace deal succeeding.

"Our country has been signing agreements since independence and I am not sure that this agreement will be the solution to what is happening," Mr Kombi said.

“They told us that elections will occur this year but seeing how things are going with the many deaths and challenges the agreement is facing, I feel the agreement is not the solution," he said.

Others are more optimistic.

“For me personally, the results will be good because there is a will to talk without guns to get together and study the needs of the Congolese people,” said Goma resident Elie Kassib.

Still more are conflicted.

“I tell myself that the context is good because peace depends on negotiations,” said Goma resident Serge Sivya.

“But unfortunately the case in the DRC is that there is so much hypocrisy already from when we signed the agreement at the beginning of the year,” Mr Sivya said.

“These circumstances make me feel that it is going to be hard for elections to happen in 2017 and I am sure that this might create tension, the population has been very patient,” he said.