DRC Peace Process Depends on Governance Reform, Land Rights

According to a new research report from the Enough Project, there is a brief open window for peace to take root in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The DRC conflict, which has lasted for over two decades, has left more than 6 million people dead, displaced countless others within DRC and throughout the region, and has led to trans-boundary regional conflict. The report recommends that the keys to forming a credible peace process include: 1) incentives for DRC and its neighbors to cooperate on economic, security, and refugee issues; 2) institutional reforms that allow for democratic transformation; and 3) repercussions for those who have committed mass atrocities.

The report’s authors point out that governments in the region sponsored armed groups to extract or control natural resources such as land, minerals, and smuggling routes. It recommends that land conflicts must be resolved as part of the national democratic reform process; “Armed groups are taking over large tracts of land in eastern Congo, displacing more than 2 million people. Congolese military commanders and militia leaders have set up cattle ranches and other businesses on these properties. Some of them occupy the land as squatters, and others obtained titles to land from successive national governments… A land commission should be set up, investigations should be conducted on land titling, the national land law should be reviewed, and land-reform proposals should be discussed in a national dialogue.”

The Dodd-Frank Act passed by the U.S. Congress in 2010 included a provision that requires U.S. companies to examine their product supply chain for the presence of conflict minerals. As a result, says the report, “Armed groups’ profits from these minerals are now significantly lower than their pre-2010 levels, which was the high point for smuggling.” The Inter Press Service News Agency reports that there are new opportunities for the United States government to address mounting conflicts in the DRC. The U.S. House of Representatives will soon consider a bipartisan bill to support a peace deal in DRC, including the creation of a special envoy from the president to the DRC and the surrounding Great Lakes region. In addition, policy makers can also draw on the Voluntary Guidelines for the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries, and Forests in the Context of National Food Security as a tool.

The Land Tenure and Property Rights portal features research on land tenure in DRC as well as research on land tenure and vulnerable populations, including populations that have been displaced by war or civil conflict.


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