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The Guilfordian

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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

After years of violence, the Congo will know peace

Bright times are ahead in the so-called “Heart of Darkness.”

After 15 years of violence, genocide and the cultivation of child soldiers, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has signed a peace treaty.

“No more blood must run,” Congolese President Joseph Kabila told USA Today before signing the agreement with Rwandan President Paul Kagame.

A key component of the compromise is Congo’s commitment to contain and disarm the estimated 12,000 Rwandan Hutu militia fighters who fled to Congo after taking part in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The genocide killed more than 500,000 people with most of the victims belonging to the Tutsi minority.

War consumed the Congo in August 1998 when Rwanda and Uganda backed the Congolese rebels seeking to remove then-President Laurent Kabila from office. Kabila was accused of supporting rebels who threatened the national security of the Congo and Rwanda.

That same year, Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia sent in troops to support and defend the Congo.

It is estimated that 2.5 million people have died in the conflict.

Prominent causes of death in the region range from war-induced hunger to disease and brutal killings.

“There is a time for war,” Kabila told USA Today before signing the treaty. “There is also a time for peace.”

Signing this agreement is a large step towards resolution. The Congolese people will now be able to live in peace and rebuild their broken country.

Alumnus Justin Kirchner ‘12, who studied abroad in Africa, commented on the region’s existing environment.

“I see the conflict, in part, as a vestige of colonialism,” said Kirchner. “Especially in a country like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which suffered the fiefdom of King Leopold. You expect to see continued power struggles, compounded with unrelenting poverty. I don’t see this being ‘solved’ any time soon.”

The March 23 Movement is a rebel military group based in the Congo and currently in armed conflict with the Congolese government. They have played a large role in the violence.

“The M23 movement has strong grievances that are shared by the population at large,” said Kirchner. “Even with the suppression of the M23 group, there is no guarantee another disenfranchised populace will not take the rebel regions for themselves.”

“The Congolese situation has been going on for a while, and I think it would take more than just signing a peace treaty,” said senior Tessy Omina, a native of Kenya. “The guiding forces in countries such as the Congo, and a lot of African countries for that matter, is corruption and greed by leaders. Also at times, support from Westerners who, as long as there is strife, make a fortune out of these situations in the sense of cheap minerals and natural resources.”

The Congo joined the U.S. on Monday in a $5 million campaign to search for top fugitives in the Rwandan Genocide. Nine suspects are believed to be in the Congo and are said to be at the heart of the violence.

“The rebels must immediately lay down their arms in accordance with the agreements reached in Kampala and comply with the immediate withdraw of their forces from Goma,” said Spokesman for Secretary-General of the UN Ban Ki-moon to CNN.

The agreement also requires the Congo and Rwanda to provide the UN with all information they have on the locations and numbers of the Hutu militia within the Congo.

North Carolina resident Stephen McCullah, who has travelled to the Congo, commented on the peace treaty signing.

“The Congo is in pretty bad shape all the way around,” states McCullah. “However, the diamonds and oil there have brought a little money and a few jobs. I doubt there is much of a difference after the peace treaty anywhere other than the east side of the Congo, because that is where they’ve been doing fighting.”

The peace treaty serves as the beginning of change in the Congo as well as its surrounding countries. Because of this treaty, violence, rape and the uprising of child soldiers will be forced to a close in the Congo.

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