Violent hostilities have re-erupted in the Democratic Republic of Congo's eastern province, North Kivu, despite a January ceasefire agreement. Fighting between an armed opposition Tutsi group led by Laurent Nkunda, the Congolese national army and various militias, has caused an estimated
250 000 people to flee their homes since August 2008 and resulted in a severe humanitarian crisis. The recent lull in hostilities and the initial signs of a willingness to dialogue represent a fleeting window of opportunity which must now be seized. Far greater international diplomatic pressure, coupled with the deployment of a neutral external force to help stabilise the situation and build confidence, is urgently required to create the conditions for successful mediation and dialogue. These are essential preconditions for identifying a workable political settlement which addresses deep-seated tensions that exist between communities in North Kivu and for breaking the cycle of armed conflict which has plagued the province since the early 1990s.