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Peace in the heart of Africa?

A pact in Congo this week may end a horrific conflict if the US and others follow through.

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One of the most lawless places on Earth is eastern Congo. It's also one of its most tragic – in Holocaust proportions. More than 5 million people have died there as a result of a decade-long conflict. This week, though, this little-noticed tragedy of horrors saw a hopeful turn of events.

A peace agreement was finalized Wednesday between the Democratic Republic of Congo and various rebel groups. The pact now needs money and delicate diplomacy to succeed, with the European Union already promising $150 million.

The United States needs to do more, and perhaps the Pentagon's new focus on the continent, with the setting up of an Africa Command, can help bring American "soft power" to the deal.

The lure of aid helped bring the factions to the table, along with a defeat in battle for Congo's military in December. Money will also be needed to disarm the more than two dozen militias and end a war of killing, plunder, and rape that has caused the deaths of an estimated 45,000 people each month – half of them small children.

Like the tragedy in Sudan's Darfur, the Congo conflict has long befuddled the outside world. It began in the mid-1990s after the genocide in nearby Rwanda that saw an estimated 800,000 killed. Fleeing Hutu rebels, who had tried to wipe out Rwanda's minority Tutsis, set up camp in eastern Congo, upsetting the tribal balance and uniting Congo's Tutsis under a rebel general named Laurent Nkunda.


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