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DRC: Congolese government and FRPI armed group have signed a peace agreement, much to the relief of the local population

Congolese government and FRPI armed group have signed a peace agreement, much to the relief of the local population

The Congolese Government signed on Friday, February 28 in Gety, roughly 60 km from Bunia, the provincial capital of Ituri, a peace agreement with the ‘’Force de Resistance Patriotique de l’Ituri’’ (Patriotic Resistance Force of Ituri (FRPI), the last largest armed group operating in this eastern province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The long-awaited agreement by the local populations is intended to restore peace, security and stabilization in this territory located in the east of the country.

The city of Gety was jubilant on the day of the signing of the peace agreement. For this purpose, the City witnessed a heavy deployment of security forces, mainly the armed forces of the DRC (FARDC) and the blue helmets of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO). Some of the FRPI ex-combatants attended the ceremony that took place at Tata Akobi Stadium. On the roads of the city, one could see banners applauding the agreement due to be signed a few months ago but postponed several times.

Mbadu Adurodu, the self-proclaimed "general" and commander of the FRPI, expressed satisfaction: "I am extremely happy to witness the signing of this agreement after the two aborted attempts. We agreed to leave the bush because we were tired of living there; we want peace, we are Congolese and we want to serve our country. "

His wife, attending the ceremony with him, said she was also happy: "Finally, my husband has regained freedom and left the bush. I am happy I will no longer be stigmatized as being militia leader’s wife ... We can now reunite, live together and serve the nation, "she said.

The population in Gety were also jubilant on this "historic day". Anualite Zawadi, 27 years old, explains: "For us women, this is a day of victory and great hope", further indicating: “For 20 years, we have suffered a lot, women were raped, we hardly went to the farms, children hardly went to school, our community was stigmatized because we were assimilated with FRPI militia members. With this agreement, there is hope for peace, unity and peaceful coexistence. We want the provisions of this agreement to be respected.”

According to the terms of the agreement, "FRPI ceases to exist as an armed group and commits to respect the process for their transformation into a political party in accordance with the legislation on the matter". In addition, FRPI "reassures the government that there are no associated children in their rank and expresses availability to verify this".

The agreement also provides that “Congolese government undertakes to submit to the Parliament a bill providing amnesty for insurrectionary acts, acts of war and political offenses. However, ’war crimes, crimes against humanity, gross human rights violations, rape, sexual violence and crimes of genocide’’ are excluded from the scope of the amnesty law.

In addition, the Government undertakes to implement the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration process (DDR) for the armed groups in Ituri, by incorporating "into the Defense Forces, for the purposes of peace, the FRPI members who will make such a request after verification on a case-by-case basis of their skills according to the criteria defined by law, including on the issue pertaining to assigning grades  or ranks”. The Government will make "appropriate arrangements for the members of the FRPI applying for integration into the Defense Forces, having not met the skills-based criteria, in terms of special training program, to respond to their need ".

Ituri Provincial Governor Jean Bamanisa Saidi expressed government's determination to implement the agreement: ‘’nobody is reluctant to sign this agreement. It is the fruit of a commitment and resolve. We shall work to prevent further conflicts ... State authority must be restored, and we shall do everything in our power to put out of harm’s way the masterminds ... ", he said.

The process leading to the signing of this peace agreement received significant support from MONUSCO. With its international partners, the Mission has spared no effort since 2017, when negotiations began, in terms of advocacy, logistical, technical and financial assistance to promote lasting peace in the Irumu Territory.

For MONUSCO, the peace agreement “is the best opportunity ever given to the Irumu Territory, Ituri to put an end to the almost 2-decade violence and to resolutely enter a phase of restoration of the state authority as well as economic and social development, "said Cecilia Piazza, Chief of  MONUSCO Office in Bunia.

The United Nations Mission in the DRC has pledged to continue supporting the pacification process in Irumu Territory, including the DDR process for ex-combatants, as well as the community reintegration of demobilized combatants who would opt for.

‘’ In addition to the community reintegration component, the program will be accompanied by a democratic dialogue, a component that would strengthen social cohesion between communities in order to ensure lasting peace in southern Irumu. These efforts are supported by the Cohesion Fund for Stabilization as well as by MONUSCO, in accordance with its mandate,” said the Chief of MONUSCO office.