- The Washington Times - Monday, February 11, 2013

The international community has “a moral imperative” to end the violence that has killed more than 5 million people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 1998, the State Department’s top diplomat for Africa said Monday.

“I think that the international community has a moral imperative to act more effectively in the DRC, to break this cycle of death and suffering and to address the other consequences of this violence: the unmitigated rape and sexual violence against women and children, the nearly two million internally displaced people, the approximately 450,000 Congolese refugees who have been forced to flee to neighboring countries,” Johnnie Carson, assistant secretary of State for African affairs, said at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

“Instead of peace and prosperity, the Congolese have been plagued by decades of mismanagement, corruption, poor governance and recurring civil strife,” he said.

M23 rebels accuse Congolese President Joseph Kabila of failing to honor a March 2009 peace agreement to integrate the rebels into the national army. They seized Goma, the main city in the country’s east, in November but withdrew under international pressure.

“The M23’s takeover of Goma at the end of last year, showed the world that the collective efforts of the DRC, its neighbors and the broader international community have not been sufficient to lay the foundation for a durable solution,” said Mr. Carson.

The M23 was formed by Bosco Ntaganda, an officer in the Rwandan army before he left to join a rebel movement in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Independent monitors say the M23 rebels receive support from neighboring Rwanda and Uganda. Both countries deny the accusations.

The United Nations Security Council has imposed targeted sanctions — travel bans and an assets freeze — on five of the most senior and abusive M23 commanders.

Last week, U.N. officials said that a U.N.-mediated peace deal could be ready for signing by the end of the month.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Uganda and other countries in the region must sign and implement the U.N. framework agreement as soon as possible, said Mr. Carson.

“We need to put flesh on the bones of the agreement by establishing a comprehensive peace process around the agreement’s principles,” he said. “Such a peace process will not happen overnight, nor will it be easy.”

The Central African nation’s “chronic instability” has consequences for U.S. national interests and the interests of the nine other countries that border the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said Mr. Carson. These interests include an effort to disintegrate rebel leader Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army that operates in Central Africa.

“If the world does not get more serious about finding a formula that will lead to a lasting arrangement for stability in the DRC, then it is highly probable that the same cycle of violence and its subsequent horrors will continue into the future,” said Mr. Carson. “I do not believe that we can, or we should accept the status quo. We must do better.”

• Ashish Kumar Sen can be reached at asen@washingtontimes.com.

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