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Improving Climate in Congo

An agreement has finally been reached in regard to personnel appointed to head the new military services in post-war Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) After nearly five years of civil war and about half a year of fragile peace, the situation seems to be returning to some measure of normalcy
One of the major sticking points in negotiations to form a new government was the role of the various former combatants in a new military. Although agreement on the actual division of powers was settled a few weeks ago, it is only now that there have been appointments made to head the military divisions. As a sign of the trust the participants have in this go-forward process, the main appointees are former rebel leaders, now commanders of the army and navy. The post of chief of staff of the combined forces is retained by Lieutenant General Liwanga Maata who has held the post for several years under the governments of President Joseph Kabila and his assassinated father, Laurent.

There continues to be fighting in eastern DRC between an uncontrolled group of Mai Mai militia and the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD) who now forms part of the national army. Local observers fear this continued fighting may yet scuttle the military power-sharing along with the unified government.

But at the same time, United Nations forces about to embark to the northeastern province of Ituri have been given a broader mandate to enforce the peace. The interim forces who have been stationed around the town of Bunia since June were allowed to fire only in defense of themselves but their replacements will have full authority to open fire to maintain control. It is hoped this additional clout will give the Hema and Lendu militias reason to pay attention.

This may be what prompted representatives of the two groups to meet in Kinshasa this week to discuss putting down their weapons. Although there have been three previous meetings, this is the first time they have met in Kinshasa, considered a sign that talks are progressing.

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