Boys hold a poster reading 'Violence is not accepted but punishable by law', during a demonstration organised by the Nyiragongo civil society in Kibumba on November 7, 2013, with over 200 pupils from Kibumba's primary schools. Congolese troops backed by a special UN intervention brigade with an offensive mandate launched a major assault late last month against the M23 force of army mutineers in turbulent North Kivu. - 

After two decades of bloodshed in eastern Congo, the government is slated to sign a peace deal with the Tutsi-led M23 militant group that has long wreaked havoc in this mineral-rich region.

The Congolese government is rejoicing that these fighters will no longer stalk the nation’s mining heartland, according to Rift Valley Institute project director Jason Stearns. He has just returned from a conference in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital, Kinshasa.

“There’s a huge amount of optimism. Because of the defeat of the M23, this is a really historic moment,” Stearns said.

But the M23 is just one of a number of militant groups in a longstanding conflict. Cornell University professor Nick van de Walle studies economic development in Africa.

“Even if the worst warlords are no longer in operation, the level of law and order that I think businesses need to thrive is still far from satisfactory,” van de Walle said.

As neighboring countries flourish, according to van de Walle, if Congo can do more cross-border business it may get assimilated into the dynamic economy of Africa’s Great Lakes region.