The multinational effort to bring peace to the war-torn east of Democratic Republic of Congo is in danger of failing, the International Crisis Group (ICG) warned Thursday.
In a damning report on the UN-backed push to pacify the region which has been ravaged by conflict for two decades, the think tank said "the entire stabilisation agenda for the eastern provinces is at risk".
It claimed that unless the UN, Kinshasa and neighbouring countries pull together, they will "prolong the tragic status quo of attacks and pillaging by armed groups against an already brutalised civilian population."
The east of the vast mineral-rich DRC was the scene of two major wars between 1996 and 2003, with neighbouring countries including Uganda and Rwanda intervening directly or using militias to do their bidding.
In spite of the presence of 20,000 UN peacekeepers, around 50 Congolese and foreign armed groups are still active in the region.
The ICG said the defeat in November 2013 of the mostly Tutsi M23 rebels — who were supported by Rwanda and Uganda — had "raised the hope that fundamental change and stabilisation were possible in the region."
But it said that the "dismantling of armed groups" by the UN mission's heavily-armed 3,000-strong Intervention Brigade, "as well as the DRC government's national reform agenda, have both stalled".
As part of accords signed in February 2013 to bring peace to the Great Lakes region, Kinshasa promised to overhaul its armed forces and promote national reconciliation and democratic reform.
"The failure to complete the demobilisation of the M23, which remains cantoned in Uganda and Rwanda, also demonstrates the disagreement and distrust among the (accord's) signatories, and partly results from Rwanda's irritation that the Congolese army and UN are not putting military pressure" on the DRC-based Hutu rebels of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, some of whose leaders are accused of taking part in the 1994 genocide.