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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 January 2008, 13:38 GMT
Is this peace for eastern DR Congo?
Congolese government soldiers sit in a line in a field

By Martin Plaut
BBC's Africa analyst

The peace agreement signed in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo town of Goma tells it all.

Instead of just signing at the bottom of the agreement, on each and every of its 10 pages are scribbled signatures of the participants: the rebel groups, the government representative, United Nations, US and European Union.

Then there are the religious groups and civil society.

All signed up, but just how committed are they?

And is this really the end of the war in eastern DR Congo?

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hailed the agreement as an "important step", promising the UN's continuing support.

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The head of the UN Mission to the Congo - Monuc - Alan Doss was more cautious.

He was among the signatories and told the BBC that the existing peacekeeping force in the country should be adequate to police the settlement.

It is Monuc troops that will have to fill the void, as rebels loyal to General Laurent Nkunda pull back from the positions they hold.

"We're going to be bringing extra forces from other parts of the Congo, so we will be reinforcing our presence here," said Mr Doss.

"And obviously, if we have difficulties, we are going to have to go back to the Security Council. But right now we are going to move with what we've got, because we need to do things immediately."

The government response was more sceptical.

Tough line

President Joseph Kabila called on the signatories to finally, "stop this machine that has produced plunderers, rapists and warlords."

Gen Laurent Nkunda - file photo

Dissident General Laurent Nkunda, leader of the main rebel movement participating in the agreement, won a number of concessions by taking a tough line during the negotiations.

But his delegation maintains they also compromised, agreeing to only a partial amnesty.

"We were obliged to sign to give Congolese a chance to live in peace and security in the east of the country," said Seraphin Mirindi, a member of the rebel delegation.

One of the key issues demanded by Gen Nkunda, was an explicit link to previous agreements signed in Nairobi in November 2007.

This deals with the role of the former Rwandan army forces who crossed into DR Congo following the Rwandan genocide of 1994.

The presence of these Hutu extremists - the Interahamwe - has been one of the key reasons sited by the general for his continued operations in the Goma area.

Immense wealth

Gen Nkunda has insisted they should be disarmed at the same time as his own forces.

Clinic

The Congolese ambassador to the United Nations, Atoki Ileka, acknowledged this could be a problem.

"The ethnic Hutus, the Interahamwe, who are still within the territory of the Democratic Republic of Congo - their presence poses a problem, not only for Rwanda, their own country, but also for peace and stability within our own country," he said.

"So something has to be done against them, and we will have to tackle this issue very seriously. I hope we will be able to disarm them by peaceful means, but if not we will have to do something about it."

But at the heart of the problem facing eastern DR Congo is an issue that was not addressed by the Goma agreement - the immense wealth of the region.

Gold, diamonds, coltan and timber are among the resources that have, time and again, drawn the combatants back to fight to control the area.

Neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda have been drawn in.

Only if this issue can be dealt with is peace likely to finally come, and the 800,000 people displaced can go home to rebuild their shattered lives.

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The peace process has been backed by the UN



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