The Inter-Congolese Dialogue: Political Negotiation or Game of Bluff?
The Inter-Congolese Dialogue: Political Negotiation or Game of Bluff?
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
Great Lakes Politics and the Fight for the Eastern DR Congo
Great Lakes Politics and the Fight for the Eastern DR Congo
Report / Africa 2 minutes

The Inter-Congolese Dialogue: Political Negotiation or Game of Bluff?

More than two years after the signing of the  Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement, the Inter-Congolese Dialogue officially opened in Addis Ababa on 15 October 2001, under the facilitation of Sir  Ketumile Masire, the former President of Botswana.

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Executive Summary

More than two years after the signing of the  Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement, the Inter-Congolese Dialogue officially opened in Addis Ababa on 15 October 2001, under the facilitation of Sir  Ketumile Masire, the former President of Botswana. But the government of Joseph Kabila stonewalled, insisting that the absence of many delegates necessitated postponement. The meeting, scheduled to last 45 days, quickly deadlocked and was postponed to an unspecified date in South Africa.

In the context of ongoing war, the failure was foreseeable. Should nothing change, the dice will remain loaded against the Dialogue. It was originally perceived as a way for the anti- government coalition to achieve its objectives. The rebels imposed the concept on then-President Laurent-Desire Kabila to force him to accept power-sharing, but now neither side is strong enough to gain the upper hand either militarily or politically.

In the Lusaka Agreement framework, the Dialogue is supposed to prepare for a new political dispensation that liberates the Congolese from external occupation and interference. But neither Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe nor Angola want to see in Kinshasa a regime not under their control. President Kabila and his backers refuse to consider power-sharing through the Dialogue with anti-government rebels without guarantees of Rwanda and Uganda's full withdrawal. At the same time   the rebels and their sponsors, including Rwanda and Uganda, refuse to consider withdrawal until a transition government is established through the Dialogue and their security is guaranteed. As a result of this deadlock, low-intensity conflict remains the most attractive option to most of the external actors, and war grinds on in the Kivus thanks to continued support from Kinshasa and Harare to the Rwandan and Burundian Hutu militias.

The states that have intervened in the Congo all have unsatisfied political and security "shopping lists" and want to retain access to the country's resources. This access enables the governments of Zimbabwe, Angola, Uganda, and Rwanda to reinforce themselves internally at a time of domestic succession or political transition.

Since the death of the elder Kabila, the Dialogue has lost much of its attraction for the international community, which strongly supports the son and wishes to push him to resume the democratisation process Mobutu abandoned, negotiating directly with Uganda and Rwanda, rather than with the rebels. But the Kinshasa government is too weak to meet international expectations without an external mediator or guarantor.

In order for the peace negotiations to succeed, the international community should more actively support direct dialogue between the governments of the DRC and Rwanda, as demanded by UN Security Council Resolution 1376 of 9 November 2001. The resolution calls for the establishment of a joint co-ordination mechanism on disarmament, demobilisation, repatriation, resettlement and reintegration (DDRRR). Without this the Inter- Congolese Dialogue will remain a game of bluff rather than a transparent political negotiation.

The Inter-Congolese Dialogue must set as its primary objectives ending the war and rebuilding national Congolese institutions. The international community should also urge the Dialogue to come to grips with ethnic discrimination against the rwandophone communities of the Kivus, a poison sowed by Mobutu that is a major cause of ongoing fighting. Resolution of the conflict must include reconciliation, acceptance of the minorities' Congolese citizenship, and institutional and political guarantees for their security.

More than anything, reconstruction of national institutions, reconciliation and the emergence of an autonomous and responsible Congolese leadership would create the conditions for restoration of full Congolese sovereignty and  territorial  integrity. But a careful review of objectives and what is needed to achieve them is required before another meeting is held to pick up the pieces from the failure at Addis Ababa.

Brussels, Nairobi, Kinshasa, 16 November 2001

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