19 January 2009
On 15 January, during the third round of direct talks in Kenya, between the government and the rebel National Congress in Defence of the people (CNDP) approved a document setting out the ground rules for 'substantive discussions'. However, the negotiations under the aegis of the UN and the African Union, have not yet led to the signing of a ceasefire agreement. Talks have been adjourned until 25 January.The rebel movement had long demanded direct talks as a precondition to an end to violence in the eastern province of North Kivu which has displaced an estimated one million people. The latest round of violence erupted at the end of August, ending hopes for a successful implementation of a ceasefire agreement signed in January 2008.
UN official described progress in the negotiations as slow but steady. The talks had already been suspended several times after the rebels failed to respect their unilaterally declared ceasefire. There have been no major outbreaks of fighting between government and CNDP forces since the rebel-declared ceasefire last October. Nevertheless, clashes between CNDP and presumed pro-governmental militias continue.
JRS staff working in the Goma area reported their education, sanitation and humanitarian assistance projects were slowly restarting. Many local schools have reopened. Former JRS Goma staff member and Spanish Jesuit, Juanjo Aguado, told Dispatches JRS intends to make up for lost time. The team will increase its support to teachers to provide supplementary classes for the students. Fr Aguado, who finished in early January, expressed his desire that all projects reopen in the near future.
Meanwhile, the CNDP finds itself in the middle of a leadership crisis. On 5 January, the chief of staff of the rebel movement, Bosco Ntaganda, announced that the CNDP rebel leader Laurent Nkunda had been discharged. The Nkunda camp was quick to reject Bosco's. According to UN peacekeepers, the apparent split within the movement has not yet broken out into open fighting.
In addition, on 22 December, the UN Security Council extended, as expected, the mandate for UN peacekeepers in the Congo until 31 December 2009. The Council broadened the mandate authorising peacekeepers to use their monitoring and inspection capacities to halt illicit trade in natural resources. Numerous reports have demonstrated that all the main parties in the conflict in eastern DRC, including the Congolese army, are financed through the extraction and sale of the region's mineral wealth.
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