From Kabila to Kabila: Prospects for Peace in the Congo
From Kabila to Kabila: Prospects for Peace in the Congo
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
The Boiling Regional Crisis in Eastern Congo
The Boiling Regional Crisis in Eastern Congo
Report 27 / Africa

From Kabila to Kabila: Prospects for Peace in the Congo

Joseph Kabila, son of the late Laurent Désiré Kabila, speaks a far more peaceful language than that of his bellicose father. But he will not be able to deliver peace alone, and there are already signs that the many parties to the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo are heading for renewed confrontation.

Executive Summary

Joseph Kabila, son of the late Laurent Désiré Kabila, speaks a far more peaceful language than that of his bellicose father. But he will not be able to deliver peace alone, and there are already signs that the many parties to the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo are heading for renewed confrontation. In a Congo that continues to fragment, Kabila’s patrons and his enemies are beginning to quarrel among themselves. What looms are a series of battles as the factions struggle for influence and spoils.

The assassination of Laurent Kabila on 16 January 2001 and the appointment of his son Joseph as President of the DRC brought fresh hope to the stalled Lusaka Peace process. The new president swiftly agreed to the deployment of a United Nations military observer force (MONUC) to oversee troop withdrawals, and he approved the appointment of Sir Ketumile Masire to open a vital Inter-Congolese Dialogue. There has also been contact between Kabila and Rwandan President Paul Kagame, his father’s old enemy, on disarmament of the forces associated with the Rwandan genocide of 1994, who found refuge in Congo. The UN Security Council hailed these gestures of goodwill by approving the deployment of MONUC in February to verify disengagement of forces, and almost immediately Rwandan and Ugandan forces began some troop withdrawals.

But these positive steps on disarmament and disengagement are being undermined by the ongoing political struggle for influence and access to resources, which will make the Inter-Congolese Dialogue a very difficult exercise. It is still not clear how strong Joseph Kabila’s true commitment to the peace process is, nor the extent of his real influence over the DRC’s ruling elite. Kabila’s nominal allies, Angola and Zimbabwe, deeply mistrustful of each other, are trying to push their own interests through Congolese proxies. Zimbabwe, suspicious of the security breach that enabled Laurent Kabila to be killed, has detained numerous Congolese associated with Angola, including Eddy Kapend, the military officer who appeared on television shortly after the assassination calling for calm.

The rifts between former allies are not confined to the pro-Kabila side. Rwanda and Uganda, once united against Laurent Kabila, are showing further signs that their relationship has frayed. President Yoweri Museveni recently called Rwanda a “hostile state,” accusing it of giving financial support to his domestic political opponents during the recent elections. In turn, Rwanda has accused Uganda of harbouring some of President Kagame’s opponents.

In Kinshasa, hardliners are back in control of the government, opposing any dialogue with anti-government rebels until there is a total military withdrawal of all foreign forces. The rebels, backed by Rwanda and Uganda, refuse any dialogue without a power-sharing agreement. Frustrated by the lack of progress, the powerful Ugandan-backed rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba has already threatened to reopen fighting. There appears, therefore, to be long odds against the Inter-Congolese Dialogue ever starting. If it does begin, it is likely to become a new theatre for strife between all the competing interests.

The success of the Lusaka process is critical for lasting peace in Congo and all of Central Africa. This giant land is a state in name only. Its structures are destroyed and regions fragmented between enemies and friends. It urgently needs a power-sharing agreement that includes unarmed opposition groups and rebel representatives as well as pro-Kabila factions. It needs a government of transition and a new constitution. None can be achieved without vigilance and support from all parties involved and the international community.

Strict conditions over assistance to Joseph Kabila must be enforced to overcome the political resistance to an Inter-Congolese Dialogue. Failure to act will mean a resumption of hostilities, a war of succession and further fragmentation of the country into semi-permanent spheres of military influence and the certainty of worse crises to come.

Nairobi/Brussels, 16 March 2001

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