The Agreement on a Cease-fire in the Democratic Republic of Congo
The Agreement on a Cease-fire in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
War and Dizzying Regional Alliances in Congo’s East
War and Dizzying Regional Alliances in Congo’s East
Report 5 / Africa 5 minutes

The Agreement on a Cease-fire in the Democratic Republic of Congo

After a year of failed attempts by Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Organisation for African Unity (OAU), South Africa and other regional powerbrokers, the six countries involved in Africa’s seven-nation war in the Democratic Republic of Congo signed the Agreement for a Cease-fire in the DRC in Lusaka on 10 July 1999.

Executive Summary

After a year of failed attempts by Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Organisation for African Unity (OAU), South Africa and other regional powerbrokers, the six countries involved in Africa’s seven-nation war in the Democratic Republic of Congo signed the Agreement for a Cease-fire in the DRC in Lusaka on 10 July 1999. The war has pitched Kabila and his allies, Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia against a Congolese rebellion backed by Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi since August 1998. The main provisions of the agreement  include: immediate cessation of hostilities; the establishment of a Joint Military Commission (JMC), composed of the belligerent parties to investigate cease-fire violations, to work out mechanisms to disarm the identified militias, and monitor the withdrawal of foreign troops according to an established calendar; the deployment of a UN chapter 7 force tasked with disarming the armed groups, collecting weapons from civilians and providing humanitarian assistance and protection to the displaced persons and refugees; and the initiating of a Congolese National Dialogue intended to lead to a “new political dispensation in the DRC”.

However, a month after signing, the war continues. While it does not dispute the content of the document, the main rebel group, the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD) has refused to sign the agreement. The RCD split earlier in May, when Ernest Wamba dia Wamba was ousted as head of the group, but refused to step down and established his headquarters in Kisangani with Ugandan backing. Both the RCD-Goma, backed by Rwanda, and the RCD-Kisangani,  supported by Uganda, have demanded the exclusive right to sign the peace agreement. This has delayed the implementation of the agreement and encouraged factions to engage in strategies to buy time. Since the signing, more troops have been deployed and the rebels and their allies have continued to make territorial advances. Many claims and counterclaims of violations of the agreement have already been made, making the commitment by both parties to the cease-fire agreement more and more suspect.

Relations between Rwanda and Uganda have grown increasingly strained since the RCD split. Soldiers from both countries have been stationed at the airport and control separate parts of the city of Kisangani. Despite recent efforts by South Africa and Zambia to verify leadership claims and to put pressure on both factions to sign, the disagreement degenerated into open urban warfare between the two armies on 14 August. The former allies fought for the control of several installations as well as of the city international airport, employing heavy artillery. On 17 August, Rwanda and Uganda agreed on a cease-fire.  They say they will send a military team to find out why the fighting erupted. They also agree that they will respect the outcome of the investigation on leadership claims within the RCD undertaken by the South Africans and the Zambians. If the investigation committee doesn’t come up with a clear result, both will recommend that the 28 founders of RCD should sign the agreement.

The Lusaka agreement, however, meets the demands of the rebels and their supporters, and more specifically of the Rwandans by recognising their pledge to disarm the Interahamwe and ex-FAR in the Great Lakes region. But the current fighting between Uganda and Rwanda in Kisangani makes quite clear that the security interests of those countries, which their  intervention in the DRC was supposed to protect, are not the only motivation for the war. There are neither Rwandan nor Ugandan rebel groups in Kisangani that could justify the presence of the two countries armies. Instead, the conflict seems to be a battle for commercial influence to control diamond, gold and coffee concessions, and for political influence in the region after the war is over.

The fighting between Uganda and Rwanda also legitimises Kabila’s claim that those countries are aggressors, an argument the Congolese leader seized upon when he called on the Security Council to strongly condemn the violations of the cease-fire and to demand the “immediate departure” of forces from Uganda and Rwanda. His Justice Minister Mwenze Kongolo even said at the SADC meeting in Maputo that: “as far as we are concerned the Lusaka protocol is dead".

Key questions remain unanswered. Is peace in sight at last or is the stage set for the war to continue? Can the Lusaka cease-fire agreement be resurrected in light of the glaring cease-fire violations by both sides in the conflict? Can the pressure that was put on all the parties to sign the agreement be sustained?

The high level of tension between Uganda and Rwanda is likely to affect the geopolitical order of the region; it could lead to further fragmentation and a de facto partition of the DRC, with each army occupying a sector and a very volatile military situation. If Ugandan troops remain in the North, Rwanda could be tempted to concentrate its efforts on Mbuji-Mayi. It could also convince Uganda to give up and withdraw, leaving Rwanda alone facing accusations of aggression. Parliament members in Uganda have already announced its intentions to move a  motion seeking the complete withdrawal of the troops from the DRC. And last, but not least, anti- Rwanda feelings are already growing in the Ugandan army, even though government officials in both countries have played down the impact of the Kisangani clash on the broad alliance of Uganda and Rwanda. The Ugandans have lost a lot of soldiers in the battle and some of their strongholds have been taken by the Rwandans, which is perceived as a humiliation by the UDPF.

Since the beginning of the war, the fragility of the Congolese state has been exploited by all foreign forces, whether allies or enemies of the Kabila government. For the first time, with the Lusaka agreement, the Congolese domestic agenda was brought back to the centre stage. If  the cease-fire agreement is not implemented, the continuation of violence could postpone the National Dialogue, which is key to the deployment of a peacekeeping force, the withdrawal of foreign troops, the formation of a new Congolese army and the re-establishment of state administration on DRC territory. As long as the military situation remains unresolved,  it  is unlikely that the Congolese will be in charge of their own fate.

This report analyses the motivations of each of the main parties to the conflict to sign the Lusaka agreement.  It also looks at the difficulties that lie ahead if the agreement is to be implemented.

Each belligerent party took the opportunity to put his own domestic concerns on record, especially by demanding that rebel groups fighting their governments be disarmed, and also by securing a regional commitment to address their national security interests. One of the main precedents created by the agreement is that the belligerent parties are, through the JMC, turned into the enforcers of the agreement. The JMC is supposed to share intelligence regarding  militias and work out mechanisms to disarm them. However, it will take time for the parties to overcome their suspicions and do more than make sure that their enemies don’t continue supporting the rebels. Furthermore, it will be difficult for Kabila and Zimbabwe to turn against  and disarm their allies, the ex-FAR and Interahamwe. Intelligence reports have  already  indicated that some armed groups have started going underground.

The DRC conflict has three dimensions: local, national and regional. For peace to return to the DRC, the peace process should comprehensively deal with the conflict at all three levels. For  the international community, this is a unique opportunity to re-engage with the region, to demonstrate commitment to African peace processes, and to rebuild credibility with national partners in Central, Eastern and Southern Africa. In particular, the international community should support regional efforts to restore the territorial integrity of the DRC and to resolve its security issues. 

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