A Fragile Peace: Congo Peace Deal Should Bolster Oil Companies

One week after an oil engineer for a European company is released from captivity along with 17 others, the Democratic Republic of Congo's government has announced it has reached a peace agreement with the rebels responsible for the kidnapping.

Congolese officials and Western diplomats involved in the negotiations stated that the peace deal, reached on Jan. 21, involves the general of the rebels ending the insurgency that has displaced over 400,000 people and threatened the nubile democratically elected government in that country.

The agreement hinges upon the rebels withdrawing from their positions, at which time the UN peacekeeping forces can establish a "buffer zone." The peace agreement also applies to militias operating in eastern Congo.

According to a Congo newspaper, Bill O'Neill, the oil engineer captured in last week's attack, had flown to the area to work on an oil installation for the government. O'Neill said when he arrived, he was told by immigration officials that his paperwork was incorrect.

O'Neill told the Congolese paper, "Thanks to the Foreign Office and the French consul we were all released after 17 hours of pacing up and down. It is a disgrace."

Annual production of crude registers nearly 20 million tons. The success of deepwater operations offshore Angola has piqued the interest of international operators in exploration and production offshore Congo.

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