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Congo's army reaches breakthrough with Kivus' rebel group

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James Akena/Reuters

(Read caption) A Congolese army soldier uses a monocular to view rebels' positions near the town of Sake, 27km (16 miles) west of Goma, on Dec. 4, 2007.

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This past week there was a breakthrough in peace negotiations between the national army and the Forces Républicaines Fédéralistes (FRF), a mostly Banyamulenge armed group based in the High Plateau in South Kivu above Uvira and Fizi.

There have been many rounds of talks, led by different envoys from Kinshasa, since the FRF established themselves in the High Plateau in 2005. The group, led by self-proclaimed Generals Venant Bisogo and Michel Rukunda, has never been a serious military threat, fluctuating between 50 soldiers at the beginning and over 500 at the moment. But Congolese army operations against them have often led to causalities and abuses among both civilians and military and have had a serious impact on the humanitarian situation in the High Plateau. The FRF have also played a role in a complex web of alliances that has included the FDLR, various Mai-Mai groups and young Burundian Tutsi.

If this peace deal holds, it will obviously be a good thing.

Why have talks succeeded this time? It is not entirely clear. The terms appear to be favorable to the Banyamulenge insurgency. Bisogo (previously a colonel in the RCD rebellion) and Rukunda (who I believe was a major, but a stanch critic of Rwanda) will be able to keep their ranks of general and their troops will be integrated into 431st brigade that is deployed in the hills close to where their families are. A key condition of their integration (and that of the CNDP before them) had always been that their troops remain in the Kivus.

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