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Homepage > Regions / Countries > Africa > Central Africa > DR Congo > Storm Clouds over Sun City: The Urgent Need to Recast the Congolese Peace Process

Storm Clouds over Sun City: The Urgent Need to Recast the Congolese Peace Process

Africa Report N°44 14 May 2002


After seven weeks of negotiations at Sun City, a partial agreement was reached on 19 April 2002 between Jean-Pierre Bemba’s MLC (Mouvement pour la libération du Congo) and the government of Joseph Kabila. The agreement represents the end of the Inter-Congolese Dialogue in the context of the Lusaka peace accords. However confusion reigns. The negotiations are not complete and the future of the Democratic Republic of Congo remains uncertain.

The accord, struck by the majority of delegates from unarmed opposition groups and civil society, and approved by Angola, Uganda and Zimbabwe, is the beginning of a political realignment in the DRC conflict. Most notably it heralds the end of the anti-Kabila coalition and confirms the isolation of the RCD (Rassemblement congolais pour la Démocratie) and its ally Rwanda. The Kabila government and the MLC actually concluded the accord by default, due to the intransigence of the RCD on the question of power sharing in Kinshasa, and, in the background, the failed negotiations between the governments of the DRC and Rwanda over the disarmament of the Hutu rebels known as ALiR (Armée pour la libération du Rwanda). This accord transformed the discussions between the Lusaka signatories into a bilateral negotiation with a Kabila-Bemba axis backed by the international community on one side, and a politically weak RCD, backed by a militarily strong Rwanda on the other.

The new partners announced that they would install a transition government in Kinshasa on 15 June, declared the Lusaka accords ‘dead’ but committed themselves to continuing negotiations with the RCD and Rwanda. The RCD, its cohesion and existence threatened, tried to break its isolation by forming an alliance with the UDPS (Union pour la démocratie et le progrès social) of Etienne Tshisekedi, and is talking up threats of renewed hostilities and partition of the country.

It is highly desirable that negotiations with the RCD be finalised before the transition government is installed. President Mbeki of South Africa, as next president of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and of the African Union (AU), should become joint leader of the process, on condition that he receives a clear mandate from the parties to the dialogue and from the regional countries that have given their support to the Kabila-Bemba partnership, i.e. Angola and Uganda. The neutrality of South Africa has indeed been questioned by the Congolese who were stung by its apparent support for the RCD at Sun City.

The Sun City talks may also mark the beginning of a real regional discussion on the security and economic issues at the heart of the Congolese conflict. In particular, the issue of Rwanda’s security is finally on the table – the disarmament of the Rwanda Hutu militias based in the DRC – as well as the issue of the Congo’s security – the withdrawal of the RPA (Rwandan Patriotic Army) from the DRC itself. These are both part of the Lusaka accords. It is also time to discuss the long-term security of the region, especially the reconstruction of the Congolese state, and the rights and responsibilities of that state.

As soon as a political accord on power sharing is reached, the indispensable coordination of all these different dimensions of the peace process should be assured by the appointment of a high-profile Special Envoy of the United Nations’ Secretary-General. The mandate of the Special Envoy should be to supervise the implementation of an inclusive agreement on political transition; to coordinate UN activities on DDRRR (disarmament, demobilisation, repatriation, reintegration, and resettlement of armed groups); to ensure cooperation between the various UN institutions involved in the Rwandan and Congolese peace processes (ICTR, MONUC, the expert panel on the illegal exploitation of natural resources in the DRC); and to prepare the agenda for a regional conference on security and sustainable development in the Great Lakes.


To the Signatories of the Lusaka Peace Accords and Members Of The Joint Military Commission:

1.  Entrust President Mbeki with mediating the conclusion of the Inter-Congolese Dialogue. This process could build on results obtained by the facilitator of the Lusaka process, Ketumile Masire. It should also be based on a compromise between the power-sharing proposal known as ‘Mbeki II’ and the accord struck between the Congolese government and the MLC.

2.  Give the mediator a mandate to obtain a preliminary accord between Rwanda, Uganda, Angola and Zimbabwe on conditions to be met for them to support a transitional power-sharing agreement in the DRC. Once this agreement is obtained, the new mediator could once again bring together the parties to the Inter-Congolese Dialogue and finalise an inclusive power-sharing agreement.

3.  Immediately cease all military deployments that could reignite hostilities, and any resupply of armed groups in the Kivus.

To the Secretary General of the United Nations:

4.  Appoint a high-profile Special Envoy for the Great Lakes with the responsibility to guide and press for the application of the Lusaka peace accords and to ensure cooperation between the various UN institutions involved in the Rwanda and in the Congolese peace process.

5.  Give the new Special Envoy a concurrent mandate to negotiate between Rwanda, the government of DRC, Angola, Uganda and Zimbabwe on the application of a DDRRR program as well as the permanent withdrawal of all foreign troops from the Congo.

6.  Equip MONUC with a specialist conflict resolution team to assist humanitarian aid agencies in gaining access to the Kivu and Ituri regions and to establish reconciliation programs between local communities.

To the Government of the DRC, the MLC and Their Respective Allies:

7.  As a crucial test of credibility, immediately arrest and deliver to Arusha the leaders of ALiR who are wanted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and suspend all supply of ALiR forces on Congolese territory.

Brussels/Nairobi, 14 May 2002

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