Disarmament in the Congo: Jump-Starting DDRRR to Prevent Further War
Disarmament in the Congo: Jump-Starting DDRRR to Prevent Further War
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
The Boiling Regional Crisis in Eastern Congo
The Boiling Regional Crisis in Eastern Congo
Report 38 / Africa

Disarmament in the Congo: Jump-Starting DDRRR to Prevent Further War

The Democratic Republic of Congo remains a failed state, occupied by six foreign armies, tormented by militias and unable to meet the most basic needs of its people. The war, which began in August 1998, has not yet ended.

Executive Summary

The Democratic Republic of Congo remains a failed state, occupied by six foreign armies, tormented by militias and unable to meet the most basic needs of its people. The war, which began in August 1998, has not yet ended. The cease fire agreement signed at Lusaka in July 1999 is respected on the conventional front lines, but the underlying causes of conflict remain to be resolved, and people are still dying every day from fighting, hunger and disease. This report addresses in detail one of the factors critically necessary for peace – the process of disarmament, demobilisation, repatriation, reintegration, and resettlement (DDRRR) of the armed rebel groups.

There are in fact three interlocking processes that must succeed if peace is ever to be achieved. First, is the disarmament of the non-Congolese armed groups based in the DRC, addressed in this report. The most significant of these predominantly Hutu rebel forces, the Armée de Libération du Rwanda (ALiR), is led by the masterminds of the Rwandan genocide who fled to the Congo in 1994. They are still supported by the government in Kinshasa because the DRC lacks an effective military force against the occupying forces of Rwanda and Uganda. The Hutu groups, fed and armed by Kinshasa, have become proxy fighters for the DRC.

DDRRR is not well advanced. There is very little contact by MONUC or other international officials with the AliR leaders, many of whom fear arrest because of their alleged role in the Rwandan genocide. Resolving the AliR leadership’s demands for amnesty and political dialogue with the Rwandan government is further complicated because the government understandably refuses to negotiate with génocidaires. But the AliR members, most of whom were recruited after 1994, have legitimate security and political demands, and the Rwandan government is also keen for these men to disarm and return to society, or be reintegrated as soldiers in the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA), so long as their leaders face justice.

The second process that must be successfully completed if the country has any chance of survival is the withdrawal of foreign forces from the DRC. Tutsi-dominated regime in Rwanda, afraid of renewed Hutu attacks, maintains its own occupying forces in eastern Congo, refusing to withdraw until the Hutu groups are disarmed. And for reasons of their own Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Uganda and Burundi all have forces in the Congo as well. 

The third factor that will be vital to peace in the Congo is the Inter-Congolese Dialogue - the only forum through which DRC can rebuild its political institutions.  But this too is stuck in a deadlock[fn]See ICG Report N°37, 16 November 2001, "The Inter-Congolese Dialogue, a Political Negotiation or a Game of Bluff?"Hide Footnote . President Joseph Kabila and his backers, Angola and Zimbabwe, refuse to consider power-sharing through the Dialogue with anti-government rebels without guarantees of Rwanda and Uganda's full withdrawal. The rebels and their sponsors, on the other hand, refuse to consider withdrawal until a transition government is established through the Dialogue and Rwanda's border security is guaranteed. These external demands have to be addressed as part of Congo’s political transition.

In total these challenges appear to present a near-impossible Catch-22. But they can be resolved if the international community, and especially the UN, is prepared to make a greater commitment to completing all three parts of the peace process.

There is room for cautious optimism at the moment - especially on the issue of disarmament.  The United Nations Observer Mission to the Congo (MONUC) has recently taken the lead in a limited, voluntary disarmament program of AliR. In November the DRC authorised MONUC to conduct a census of about 1800 unarmed AliR combatants in the Kamina military camp in the DRC and further screening is taking place in hospitals in Lubumbashi and Kinshasa.

These small steps forward also stem from the capture of around 2000 AliR fighters by the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) in May/June this year. The RPA placed the captured fighters in re-education camps and appealed to the international community for assistance in their rehabilitation and reintegration. If the AliR groups in Rwanda and in DRC are properly rehabilitated, their 20,000 (or more) fellow fighters may also be persuaded to return to Rwanda.

The opportunity offered by these events must be seized quickly. Despite the limited progress described above, the war is continuing in eastern Congo between Rwandan armed forces and several DRC-backed Hutu factions. Tensions have also risen between Rwanda and its former ally Uganda, with confirmation of a build-up of armed forces of both countries in the Kivus in eastern Congo. In this context, the DDRRR program may simply recycle demobilised Hutu rebels into a new war with new military alliances.

Bilateral talks between President Kabila and President Kagame have failed to produce results, mainly because of intransigence and a lack of trust on both sides, but also because of the lack of mediation and international involvement in the Congo peace process. In order to avoid another war, it is vital that the international community persuades the DRC and its ally Zimbabwe to stop supporting the armed groups. MONUC and the international community must assist the government in Kinshasa to build up its own army, while pressing neighbouring countries to withdraw their troops.

The peace process would also be greatly assisted if President Kagame would restate his commitment to the withdrawal of his soldiers from the Kivus. This would limit the justification for DRC and Zimbabwe to rearm the rebel groups and help President Kabila maintain his disarmament policy in the face of hard-line opposition inside his own government.

Without considerable improvement in international support, the Democratic Republic of Congo may not survive. The resumption of war would probably mean the partition of the country, hundreds of thousands more dead and millions more refugees. The war and the subsequent humanitarian catastrophe have already claimed 2 million lives. Now is the time for the Lusaka signatories and the international community to start the DDRRR process to build momentum, and to take and the rest of the peace process forward.

Nairobi/Brussels, 14 December 2001

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