- Peace and stability cannot be maintained in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Ituri district provided the root causes of the conflict are addressed, the Brussel-based international think tank said.
In a released report entitled "Congo: Four Priorities for Sustainable Peace in Ituri," the International Crisis Group said Congo's reconstruction hinges on the Ituri district, where a new integrated peace-building strategy is required to prevent another round of violence.
The group examines the local conflict's root causes, which include unequal access to land and unfair sharing of revenues from exploitation of natural resource. A district that has too often been ignored by Kinshasa needs a strategy involving national and provincial institutions, with the active support of the UN Mission in Congo and donors.
"The risk of renewed violence in Ituri is limited today by the presence of the UN Mission, the dismantling of the majority of armed groups and the local population’s war weariness," says David Mugnier, Crisis Group’s Central Africa Project Director.
"To ensure lasting stabilisation, however, it is essential to simultaneously tackle the conflict’s root causes and abandon purely reactive or short-term approaches."
The international community has been commended for working hard to help bring about peace in the region, culminating in the disarmament of militias during the transition process, but the Crisis Group said the root causes of the Ituri conflict must be tackled to avoid the triggering of renewed violence in the 2009 local elections.
Land-related tensions that were at the origin of the conflict have not been eased and constantly threaten to lead to new inter-ethnic confrontations, the report noted.
With the return of refugees to their homes, a resurgence of those tensions seems inevitable, which makes it "indispensable to take preventive measures on the ground and to clarify the judicial muddle on land law and the status of chieftainships."
The report said it is critical to the peace process to establish a framework for transparent treatment of Ituri’s resources, to dismantle local mafia networks that extract resources from mining and forestry and to manage expectations raised by the discovery of oil at Lake Albert.
"If peace is to be consolidated, a voluntary and integrated approach is required that reunites national and regional institutions and international partners," said Francois Grignon, Director of Crisis Group’s Africa Program. "Otherwise, the return of chaos is likely, which would signify the failure of the peace process."
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