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Two Armed Groups in DR Congo Commit to Civilian Protection in a Historic Pledge in Geneva

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In an unprecedented ceremony held in Geneva, Switzerland, representatives from two Congolese armed factions have pledged to enhance the protection of civilians amidst the escalating violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This solemn event, watched by Western diplomats, took place under the illustrious crystal chandelier of City Hall’s “Alabama Room”—a venue steeped in history as the signing location of the first Geneva Convention in the mid-19th century.

The groups, which are in opposition to the M23 rebel faction and loosely aligned with the Congolese government, have committed to addressing grave concerns such as sexual violence, food insecurity, famine conditions, and the need for improved healthcare access within their territories. This significant development is the culmination of efforts by Geneva Call, a humanitarian organization dedicated to protecting civilians in conflict zones.

Members of two armed groups two groups are the Change/Self-Defense Force of Congolese People and the Nduma Defense of Renewed Congo

A Beacon of Hope Amidst Continued Strife

The DRC, Africa’s second-largest country, has been plagued by violence, particularly in its mineral-rich eastern regions. The presence of over 120 armed groups vying for control, land, and community protection has intensified the conflict, leading to a surge in insecurity. This backdrop makes the pledges made by the CMC-FDP (Collective of Movements for Change/Self-Defense Force of Congolese People) and NDC-R/Guidon (Nduma Defense of Renewed Congo/Guidon) not only significant but also a potential turning point in the region’s tumultuous history.

Concrete Steps Towards Change

The CMC-FDP has engaged with Geneva Call for five years, releasing children from its ranks and taking steps to rehabilitate schools and health centers. Similarly, the NDC-R/Guidon group, boasting approximately 5,000 fighters, has shown a commitment to change by releasing hostages, submitting its members for training in humanitarian law, and surrendering individuals accused of sexual or gender-based violence to the authorities.

These actions, while not formal agreements or legitimizations of the groups, represent a tangible shift towards respecting international humanitarian law and human rights, according to the representatives from both factions. The commitments are an attempt to alter global perceptions of resistance groups and demonstrate a genuine desire to respect human rights under challenging circumstances.

Monitoring and Future Prospects

Geneva Call’s director-general, Alain Deletroz, highlighted the organization’s role in encouraging other armed groups to emulate these commitments. With nearly 120 such pledges facilitated by Geneva Call in various countries, the initiative in the DRC could inspire similar movements towards peace and civilian protection.

The organization will monitor the adherence to these pledges closely, ready to confidentially address any violations with the group leaders. This approach, grounded in diplomacy and a deep commitment to humanitarian principles, has the potential to bring about meaningful change in the DRC and beyond.

As the international community watches these developments, the pledges made in Geneva serve as a reminder of the power of commitment and the possibility of peace, even in the most challenging circumstances. The ceremony in the Alabama Room, under the symbolic gaze of historical figures who once committed to aid the war-wounded, may well mark the beginning of a new chapter for civilian protection in the DRC.

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