Scramble for the Congo: Anatomy of an Ugly War
Scramble for the Congo: Anatomy of an Ugly War
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
Élections en RDC : quelles perspectives pour un réel changement ?
Élections en RDC : quelles perspectives pour un réel changement ?
Report / Africa 3 minutes

Scramble for the Congo: Anatomy of an Ugly War

The Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement, signed eighteen months ago to stop the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has proved hollow. The accord largely froze the armies in their positions, but did not stop the fighting.

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Executive Summary

The Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement, signed eighteen months ago to stop the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has proved hollow. The accord largely froze the armies in their positions, but did not stop the fighting. The mandated United Nations observers, who were to oversee the disengagement of forces, have remained unable to deploy for the most part due to the continuation of hostilities. Similarly, the Inter-Congolese Dialogue, that was to have brought a ‘new political dispensation’ to the Congo, appears stillborn.

Faced with this impasse in the peace process, the Congo has begun to fragment. Throughout the country a humanitarian catastrophe is underway. The fighting has already cost the lives of hundreds of thousands, and an estimated additional two million Congolese have been displaced as a result. The violence has also encouraged ethnic militarism to grow, and the east of the country has already been transformed into a patchwork of warlords’ fiefdoms.  The territorial integrity of the Congo is threatened, as will in time be the stability of its nine neighbours if the chaos continues.

The failure of the Lusaka Ceasefire has been due to an absence of leadership. The agreement depended entirely upon the cooperation of the parties to succeed. Tragically, none of the signatories fulfilled what they had pledged. Each suspected the others of a double game, and used its suspicions to justify its own duplicity. Since the belligerents themselves were the ones responsible for policing the agreement, and since there was no external guarantor to compel their compliance, the agreement quickly became empty.

Today it remains only as a reference document, at hand for when the belligerents come to realize that they have no other options. At present this is not yet the case. All are determined to persist with their military adventurism precisely because they have so far failed to accomplish their war objectives. They all need to recoup something for the investment of blood and treasure they so foolishly squandered in the Congo. They all want to win, despite the fact that winning is no longer possible.

Rwanda and Uganda’s second war in the Congo has seriously endangered their own stability. The lightning strike they unleashed in August 1998 to overthrow Kabila has since become of a war of occupation, and risks becoming an unsustainable war of attrition. Energies and funds that each need to spend on economic development have been redirected towards their growing defence budgets. And, under the weight of the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Eastern DRC, and the repeated clashes between their forces in Kisangani, the reputations of Rwanda and Uganda’s leaders have plummeted.

The war has been no better for Kabila’s allies. The DRC President’s adamant refusal to accept MONUC’s deployment, and preference for sharing the country rather than sharing power, has trapped Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe in the Congo.  Now the Harare strongman has little room left to manoeuvre, unwilling to risk a unilateral and undignified withdrawal because of the internal economic and political unrest at home. Angola, on the other hand, has escaped paying the costs of its intervention so far. Its apparent success has tempted President Dos Santos to assert himself as a regional power-broker for West-Central Africa. He supports Kabila because he cannot permit the appearance of a strong and independent leader in Kinshasa. An imminent change in the military situation, however, is likely to call into question the success of this DRC policy, and reveal the limits of Angola’s power. In power because there seems to be no other options, Kabila is only a ruler by default.

The inadequate policies of the international community have contributed to this ongoing fragmentation of the Congo. Determined to stop the fighting, the world powers pressured the belligerents to sign the Lusaka ceasefire agreement. The document fitted especially well with the United States’ preference for  ‘African solutions for an African problem’. The limits of this policy have now become clear. At present none of the belligerents has the power to escape the Congolese quagmire without help. ICG therefore recommends a stronger and more determined involvement of the world powers to revive the Lusaka peace process, ultimately restore the territorial sovereignty of the DRC and achieve regional security.

Nairobi/Brussels, 20 December 2000

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