Two Shaky Truces

A peace agreement to end the year-long civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) began unraveling almost immediately after its announcement on July 10, while a July 7 truce ending eight years of war in Sierra Leone faced long-term uncertainties.

In DRC, forces from Zimbabwe and Angola had been supporting Congolese leader Laurent Kabila against a rebel coalition backed by Rwanda and Uganda. All of them agreed on terms, but a complex leadership dispute among the rebels led both main factions to refuse to sign the pact, and hostilities resumed within days.

If the ceasefire fails, warn Ivor Powell and Howard Barrell in the liberal Mail & Guardian of Johannesburg, it "will open the way for the breakup of the country that straddles the heart of Africa, and could usher in a pro-longed period of instability."

The truce in Sierra Leone seemed firmer, but the country will have to find a way "to heal the scars caused by a particularly vicious civil war," observes Mark Turner in the centrist Financial Times of London. "The agreement grants amnesty to the rebels, but ordinary people may not be so forgiving."