Already, there are positive signs that DRC might be on the mend.
Although the leader of the French troops initially made clear that it was not his mandate to disarm the various insurgent militias, he did draw a line in the sand which has apparently not been crossed to date. The rebel militias who were fighting in the area of Bunia, the largest town in the northeastern province of Ituri, were ordered to put down their weapons or leave the area. A deadline was announced and even though it was extended once, it appears to have been effective; the rebels have either laid down their weapons or vacated Bunia. An editorial appearing in the Tehran Times on June 28 notes the apparent acquiescence but also comments that the militias have not gone far and appear to be on standby in case needed. But so far there have been only a few minor incidents.
In the Kivu provinces of DRC, clashes between other militant groups have been ongoing for several weeks but they have begun to withdraw from several key towns in eastern DRC in response to an agreement designed to bring about peace in that area.
The fighting in DRC since 1998 has seen the federal government and a vast array of rebel militias fighting each other with constantly shifting alliances. A further complication saw various groups supported by other countries, also in shifting alliances. Rwanda and Uganda in particular have been accused of using DRC territory as a place to fight a proxy war without harming their own nations.
There was an omnibus peace accord entered into in April 2003 that would see the establishment of an interim government designed to shepherd the country through to national democratic elections in 2005. The major warring factions all signed the accord with the federal government and all will have input into the transitional government. One sticking point, however, was the formation of a new national army to reflect this transitional period and the sides were deadlocked. United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan appointed retired Canadian General Maurice Baril to act as a mediator in the stalled talks but it seems he wasn't needed as it was announced June 29 that the sides have reached consensus on their own. The DRC government will hold overall command of the army and head the air force, the rebel group Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) will command the ground forces, the Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC) will command the navy.
At one time during the civil war, the forces of nine countries were fighting in DRC. All foreign troops have now departed but there continues to be fighting in small pockets between various rebel groups. Piecemeal agreements are settling these one by one but it remains a very volatile nation. No one in the area is assuming that the road to democracy in DRC is going to be smooth or straight.
YellowTimes.org correspondent Paul Harris drafted this report.