Dissident General Laurent Nkunda's boycott of a commission set up under a January peace deal could prolong insecurity in the eastern Kivu provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and delay the return of hundreds of thousands of internally displaced civilians, analysts warned.
Nkunda said on 23 February that his National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) would suspend participation in daily ceasefire meetings provided for under the "act of engagement" signed in Goma on 23 January by the government, Nkunda's fighters and other armed groups.
Nkunda said his boycott was a reaction to a report by the UN Mission in Congo (MONUC) accusing the CNDP of killing at least 30 civilians between 16 and 20 January, while the peace talks were ongoing.
"The CNDP has decided to suspend all cooperation with MONUC, whose impartiality has been seriously compromised through the declarations that violate its status as a member of the International Facilitation of the Act of Engagement," Nkunda said.
He stressed that his movement was willing to work with the investigation into the alleged massacres.
About 800,000 civilians in North Kivu have been displaced, with more than half forced to flee their homes since the end of 2006 because of clashes between government forces, Nkunda's rebels and other armed groups from DRC as well as neighbouring Rwanda and Burundi.
Nkunda's boycott "will delay the return of those displaced who are suffering because most of them have been moving from one place to another for several years", said Dieudonne Kalindye, professor of human rights at the University of Kinshasa.
"These people would have started returning to their villages if the whole [peace] process had been implemented according to the Goma agreement," he added.
|A camp for internally displaced persons in the Democratic Republic of Congo|
Philippe Biyoya, a professor of political science at the Protestant University in Kinshasa and the University of Kinshasa, said MONUC must be seen to be neutral so that the implementation of the Goma accord is not jeopardised.
"MONUC, if it wants to preserve peace, must adopt a policy of neutrality. Any declaration of the kind that has been made - even if it pointed out the truth - it made Nkunda believe that he is liable for investigation and arrest, which would make him reluctant to make peace at any cost," said Biyoya.
Already, five Mayi-Mayi militia parties to the peace agreement have announced their departure from Goma because they felt their security was not guaranteed, and mechanisms for the implementation of the peace deal have not yet been set up.
Jason Luneno, chairman of the Civil Society of North Kivu, suggested that the CNDP should have waited for a further investigation of the claim by MONUC that it was responsible for the death of the 30 civilians.
"We should not encourage such withdrawals. Where there is withdrawal of Mayi-Mayi, the CNDP, it means that this is the beginning of the war," the Association of Volunteers of the Congo, a human rights NGO, said in a statement.
MONUC, for its part, stood by its report on the killing of civilians.
"The MONUC investigation of these killings was conducted with professional care and its findings reflect credible information received from a number of eye witnesses and other sources.
"The Mission believes that any other independent and impartial inquiry will confirm the outcome of the investigation and MONUC is ready to cooperate with such an inquiry," said Kemal Saiki, MONUC's spokesman.
"MONUC encourages the CNDP to work actively with the signatories of the Goma Act of Engagement and the international facilitation to ensure their full and rapid implementation for the benefit of the people of the Kivus," he added.
In a related development, Walter Kälin, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's representative for the human rights of internally displaced persons, has welcomed recent agreements aimed at ending conflict in eastern DRC.
"The recourse to peaceful solutions to the present conflicts, the renunciation of violence, the scrupulous respect by all actors of human and humanitarian rights and an unfailing fight against impunity are indispensable to put an end to the serious violations of human rights whose victims are the displaced people in the east of the DRC," Kälin said in a preliminary statement following a trip to DRC from 12 to 22 February.
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