If peace agreements produced peace, the Democratic Republic of Congo would be a happy place. Few countries have endured more peace agreements for such long periods of time, even if none have actually worked.
There are two types of peace agreements. At their best, they are the writing down, sometimes with external help, of the compromises and concessions the parties are prepared to make in order to achieve peace. Such peace agreements can be effective if properly implemented.
But the other kind of peace agreement happens when external powers coerce and bribe local players to accept a text prepared by outsiders, which locals are not committed to, which they accept under duress, and which they start looking for ways around. The DRC has had rather two few of the first type, and rather too little of the second.
In turn, this is because for a peace agreement to be effective the parties actually have to want peace, and too often they don’t. Slowly, western governments have become aware that for many local players, conflict is actually preferable to peace, and that the best way to get yourself included in a political process from which you are currently excluded is to start a war, and then offer to negotiate.
As a number of recent reports have pointed out, the DRC’s problems can’t be solved except through a regional approach. I’d argue that they can’t be solved while the current regime is in power in Rwanda. But it’s clear that, both in Kigali and in Kinshasa, there are plenty of people who will sign anything, but for whom conflict is more interesting than war.
Fewer peace agreements, perhaps, and more actual peace?