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Scramble for the Congo: Anatomy of an Ugly War

20 December 2000


The Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement, signed eighteen months ago to stop the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has proved hollow. The accord largely froze the armies in their positions, but did not stop the fighting. The mandated United Nations observers, who were to oversee the disengagement of forces, have remained unable to deploy for the most part due to the continuation of hostilities. Similarly, the Inter-Congolese Dialogue, that was to have brought a ‘new political dispensation’ to the Congo, appears stillborn.

Faced with this impasse in the peace process, the Congo has begun to fragment. Throughout the country a humanitarian catastrophe is underway. The fighting has already cost the lives of hundreds of thousands, and an estimated additional two million Congolese have been displaced as a result. The violence has also encouraged ethnic militarism to grow, and the east of the country has already been transformed into a patchwork of warlords’ fiefdoms. The territorial integrity of the Congo is threatened, as will in time be the stability of its nine neighbours if the chaos continues.

The failure of the Lusaka Ceasefire has been due to an absence of leadership. The agreement depended entirely upon the cooperation of the parties to succeed. Tragically, none of the signatories fulfilled what they had pledged. Each suspected the others of a double game, and used its suspicions to justify its own duplicity. Since the belligerents themselves were the ones responsible for policing the agreement, and since there was no external guarantor to compel their compliance, the agreement quickly became empty.

Today it remains only as a reference document, at hand for when the belligerents come to realize that they have no other options. At present this is not yet the case. All are determined to persist with their military adventurism precisely because they have so far failed to accomplish their war objectives. They all need to recoup something for the investment of blood and treasure they so foolishly squandered in the Congo. They all want to win, despite the fact that winning is no longer possible. Rwanda and Uganda’s second war in the Congo has seriously endangered their own stability. The lightning strike they unleashed in August 1998 to overthrow Kabila has since become of a war of occupation, and risks becoming an unsustainable war of attrition. Energies and funds that each need to spend on economic development have been redirected towards their growing defence budgets. And, under the weight of the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Eastern DRC, and the repeated clashes between their forces in Kisangani, the reputations of Rwanda and Uganda’s leaders have plummeted.

The war has been no better for Kabila’s allies. The DRC President’s adamant refusal to accept MONUC’s deployment, and preference for sharing the country rather than sharing power, has trapped Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe in the Congo. Now the Harare strongman has little room left to manoeuvre, unwilling to risk a unilateral and undignified withdrawal because of the internal economic and political unrest at home. Angola, on the other hand, has escaped paying the costs of its intervention so far. Its apparent success has tempted President Dos Santos to assert himself as a regional power-broker for West-Central Africa. He supports Kabila because he cannot permit the appearance of a strong and independent leader in Kinshasa. An imminent change in the military situation, however, is likely to call into question the success of this DRC policy, and reveal the limits of Angola’s power. In power because there seems to be no other options, Kabila is only a ruler by default. The inadequate policies of the international community have contributed to this ongoing fragmentation of the Congo. Determined to stop the fighting, the world powers pressured the belligerents to sign the Lusaka ceasefire agreement. The document fitted especially well with the United States’ preference for ‘African solutions for an African problem’. The limits of this policy have now become clear. At present none of the belligerents has the power to escape the Congolese quagmire without help. ICG therefore recommends a stronger and more determined involvement of the world powers to revive the Lusaka peace process, ultimately restore the territorial sovereignty of the DRC and achieve regional security.

RECOMMENDATIONS

TO THE SECURITY COUNCIL

General

1. Pass a resolution to reconcile Security Council Resolution 1304 (2000) with the Lusaka ceasefire agreement, that de-links the disengagement and withdrawal of foreign forces, the disarmament of armed groups, and the Inter-Congolese Dialogue from one another, in order to permit each to achieve the maximum forward progress.

On Dialogue

2. Promote negotiations on power sharing and transition between the main players (Government/rebels/civil society): the Community of Sant Egidio and Belgian government would be the ideal facilitators.

3. Give greater moral, financial, and logistical support to the facilitator for the Inter-Congolese Dialogue, Sir Ketumile Masire, including the appointment of a francophone ‘co-mediator’ based in Kinshasa, and force Kabila and the rebels to permit him to conduct consultations throughout the DRC.

On Disengagement

4. Support the Maputo Process and the implementation of the Kampala disengagement plan as a first step to a phased withdrawal.

5. Pressure all countries involved in the war, and especially the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to provide a secure environment in which additional MONUC MILOBS can be immediately deployed along the frontlines, as recommended by resolution 1332 (2000).

On Disarmament

6. Create an international structure, headed by a high level personality, to find solutions for the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) of the armed groups. This body would consult with the region, and the armed groups, in order to formulate a robust and realistic plan for DDR.

7. Pressure Kabila to allow the Burundian FDD to join their country’s on-going Peace Process.

8. Pressure the countries at war in the DRC to invest more of their energies in domestic political reconciliation efforts, that in the end offer the only means to convince the rebel fighters to return home.

On Peace-building

9. Design a ‘new humanitarian framework’ to tackle the complex emergency unfolding in the DRC that follows the recommendations of the JMC resolution adopted in Lusaka in early December. This can be accomplished by establishing a separate humanitarian operations office under a UN Director for Congo Humanitarian Operations responsible for the formulation and co-ordination of a strategy for relief operations in both rebel and government territories.

10. Pressure Uganda and Rwanda to give compensation for the destruction of Kisangani as called for in Security Council Resolution 1304 (2000).

TO THE DONOR COUNTRIES

11. Link the foreign belligerents’ commitment to the DRC peace process – together with their illegal exploitation of the nation’s wealth - to scrutiny of their domestic economic performance and record of ‘good governance’ in order to assess their qualification for financial aid, debt relief and trade agreements.

12. Pressure SADC countries to compel Kabila to comply with the implementation of the Lusaka agreement. Means to accomplish this include restricting the quantity of fuel the DRC imports, and limiting the amount of SADC military support his regime receives.

TO THE FOREIGN WARRING PARTIES

13. Recognize that the Lusaka process offers the only way out of the DRC quagmire, with all parties being involved in systematic negotiations as opposed to military endgames or ad hoc, back-room contacts.

14. Provide MONUC MILOBS with the minimum guarantees needed to deploy in the field, especially so that the unarmed UN observers can work unhindered.

15. Restore support to the JMC, by calling regular monthly Political Committee meetings, pushing for further deployment of teams in the field and implementing the 8 April Kampala Disengagement Plan.

16. Assist Masire’s office to prepare for the Inter-Congolese Dialogue by providing access to all parties and DRC territory.

17. Step up sincere domestic reconciliation efforts to end political or ethnic rivalries that have spilled over into the DRC and drawn them into an ever-widening conflict.

Nairobi/Brussels, 20 December 2000




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