Scramble for the Congo: Anatomy of an Ugly War
Sent: Wednesday, January 10, 2001 3:30 PM
Subject: Congo (Kinshasa): Crisisweb Update
1. Before bringing you this summary of a report, I mention the
award to a
Congolese journalist Modeste Mutinga - one of four International Press
freedom awards for the year 2000 by the Committee to protect Journalists.
"Modeste Mutinga is publisher of Le Potentiel, the only independent daily
newspaper in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). As a result, he is
painfully familiar with arrest, interrogation, intimidation and violence,
all tools used to silence media in the DRC, where a brutal war has been
raging for more than two years. After the overthrow of Mobutu Sese Seko by
Laurent-Désiré Kabila in May, 1997, the difficult life of independent
Congolese journalists became even more dangerous. Le Potentiel frequently
criticized the new regime. Mutinga, in turn, became a frequent target of
He has been arrested, detained without charge, and interrogated numerous
times, and his passport has been confiscated on several occasions. In
January 2000, President Kabila's advisors physically assaulted Mutinga in
New York City where he was covering Kabila's meeting with the United
Nations Security Council.
Despite this harassment, Modeste Mutinga remains a relentless advocate for
human rights in one of Africa's most repressive countries. The founder of
several local press freedom groups, he is also president of a Congolese
coalition working to restore peace to the war-plagued country. His
determination is an inspiration to journalists throughout Africa who
continue to fight against tremendous odds for freedom of expression and
better governance. "
2.Congo (Kinshasa): Crisisweb Update
Date distributed (ymd): 010109 Jan9.
Document reposted by APIC - Africa Policy Information Centre
Region: Central Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +economy/development+
This posting contains the executive summary and the introduction
from a 124-page report in December on the war in the Democratic
Republic of Congo, released in Nairobi and Brussels by the
International Crisis Group. The report characterizes the Lusaka
peace agreement there as 'stillborn,' but still the necessary basis
for new efforts for peace. It makes specific recommendations to
improve the chances of re-starting a meaningful peace process,
addressed to the UN Security Council, to donor countries and to the
foreign parties involved in the war.
Scramble for the Congo: Anatomy of an Ugly War
20 December 2000
149 Avenue Louise, Level 16, B-1050 Brussels, Belgium Tel:
+32-2-502 90 38, Fax: +32-2-502 50 38, Email:
1522 K Street, Suite 200, Washington, DC 20005 USA, Tel:
+1-202-408-8012, Fax: +1-202-408-8258, Email:
For the full report, see:
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
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.
TO THE SECURITY COUNCIL
1. Pass a resolution to reconcile Security Council Resolution
1304 (2000) with the Lusaka ceasefire agreement, that de-links
the disengagement and withdrawal of foreign forces, the
disarmament of armed groups, and the Inter-Congolese Dialogue
from one another, in order to permit each to achieve the maximum
2. Promote negotiations on power sharing and transition between
the main players (Government/rebels/civil society): the
Community of Sant Egidio and Belgian government would be the
3. Give greater moral, financial, and logistical support to the
facilitator for the Inter-Congolese Dialogue, Sir Ketumile
Masire, including the appointment of a francophone 'co-mediator'
based in Kinshasa, and force Kabila and the rebels to permit him
to conduct consultations throughout the DRC.
4. Support the Maputo Process and the implementation of the
Kampala disengagement plan as a first step to a phased
5. Pressure all countries involved in the war, and especially the
Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to provide a
secure environment in which additional MONUC MILOBS can be
immediately deployed along the frontlines, as recommended by
resolution 1332 (2000).
6. Create an international structure, headed by a high level
personality, to find solutions for the disarmament,
demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) of the armed groups.
This body would consult with the region, and the armed groups,
in order to formulate a robust and realistic plan for DDR.
7. Pressure Kabila to allow the Burundian FDD to join their
country's on-going Peace Process.
8. Pressure the countries at war in the DRC to invest more of
their energies in domestic political reconciliation efforts,
that in the end offer the only means to convince the rebel
fighters to return home.
9. Design a 'new humanitarian framework' to tackle the complex
emergency unfolding in the DRC that follows the recommendations
of the JMC resolution adopted in Lusaka in early December. This
can be accomplished by establishing a separate humanitarian
operations office under a UN Director for Congo Humanitarian
Operations responsible for the formulation and co-ordination of a
strategy for relief operations in both rebel and government
10. Pressure Uganda and Rwanda to give compensation for the
destruction of Kisangani as called for in Security Council
Resolution 1304 (2000).
TO THE DONOR COUNTRIES
11. Link the foreign belligerents' commitment to the DRC peace
process together with their illegal exploitation of the
nation's wealth - to scrutiny of their domestic economic
performance and record of 'good governance' in order to assess
their qualification for financial aid, debt relief and trade
12. Pressure SADC countries to compel Kabila to comply with the
implementation of the Lusaka agreement. Means to accomplish this
include restricting the quantity of fuel the DRC imports, and
limiting the amount of SADC military support his regime
TO THE FOREIGN WARRING PARTIES
13. Recognize that the Lusaka process offers the only way out of
the DRC quagmire, with all parties being involved in systematic
negotiations as opposed to military endgames or ad hoc,
14. Provide MONUC MILOBS with the minimum guarantees needed to
deploy in the field, especially so that the unarmed UN observers
can work unhindered.
15. Restore support to the JMC, by calling regular monthly
Political Committee meetings, pushing for further deployment of
teams in the field and implementing the 8 April Kampala
16. Assist Masire's office to prepare for the Inter-Congolese
Dialogue by providing access to all parties and DRC territory.
17. Step up sincere domestic reconciliation efforts to end
political or ethnic rivalries that have spilled over into the
DRC and drawn them into an ever-widening conflict.
Nairobi/Brussels, 20 December 2000
In July and August 1999, six Heads of State and over fifty rebels
leaders signed a ceasefire in Lusaka, Zambia, to end the fighting
in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) Africa's first
continental scale war. Tragically, the fighting never stopped.
The war is said to be a Congolese civil war between DRC President
Laurent-Desir, Kabila and a rabble of different rebel movements.
In fact, it is also chaotic mix of other peoples' wars, which
together have overtaken the remnants of the country its disgraced
and defeated former ruler, Mobutu Sese Seko, left behind when he
fled in 1996. At one level it is a conflict between two regional
alliances a 'Great Lakes' alliance of Rwanda, Uganda, and
Burundi, versus one of Angola, Zimbabwe, and Namibia. On another
level, it is a violent mixture of national civil wars, including
those of Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, and Angola, all of which are
partly fought on Congolese soil. Finally, in the midst of this
chaos, the Congo's own stew of local ethnic feuds has sparked an
explosion of bloodshed in the eastern part of the country. All of
these conflicts feed and reinforce one another, and together risk
to transform the Congo into a patchwork of warlord's fiefdoms.
The Lusaka agreement outlined both military and political
measures to bring peace to the Congo. Unfortunately it was never
a very realistic document. It called for the deployment of 'an
appropriate' UN Chapter VII peacekeeping force to help implement
the ceasefire, as well as track down and disarm militias, and
screen them for war criminals. For the interim period prior to
the UN deployment however, the Agreement assigned the
belligerents themselves with the task of policing the
disengagement of forces. This was to be done under the auspices
of a Joint Military Commission (JMC), composed of two
representatives from each signatory and a neutral OAU-appointed
chairman, that reported to a Political Committee made up of the
the combatants' Foreign and Defence Ministers.
On the political front the Lusaka Agreement envisioned a National
Dialogue that would deliver 'a new political dispensation' to the
Congo. The aims of this Dialogue would include the organisation
of democratic elections, the formation of a new national army and
the re-establishment of state administration throughout the
country. President Kabila, the two factions of the rebel
Rassemblement Congolais pour la D,mocratie (RCD), the rebel
Mouvement pour la Lib,ration du Congo (MLC), unarmed opposition
groups, and civil society groups all would participate as equals
under the aegis of a neutral, OAU appointed Facilitator.
This agreement was never implemented. At first it was undermined by
the belligerents' own non-compliance with its terms. Now it may
have become impossible for them to carry out what they promised,
due to their mutual distrust for one another, as well as their ill-
concealed desires to pilfer the Congo's riches. Nevertheless, the
principles of Lusaka remain as a reference for how the country
might be put back together, should the resolve to do so be found.
The destruction of the war has surpassed the expectations of all
the belligerents. What they all thought would be a rapid contest
has become a bloody and expensive stalemate. Moreover, the
alliances with which they began the war, have either collapsed in
bloody in-fighting, or have withered away as a result of foreign
reluctance to fight the Congolese's own battles. As a result no one
has the power to win the war. The current impasse however, will not
last. Each country faces the risk of defeat due to the Congo war's
corrosive effects upon state institutions (such as disciplined
standing armies) and national economies. In addition each faces the
ever-present threat of bad luck on the battlefield.
In December 2000 it appears that fortune favours Rwanda and Uganda.
Since August the Kampala backed MLC have threatened the key Congo
River town of Mbandaka - and by extension Kinshasa four days down
river. The Rwandans and their RCD allies have just decisively
repulsed a Forces Arm,es Congolaises (FAC) offensive in Katanga,
and have captured the important border town of Pweto. Good fortune
in war however, breeds over-confidence and risk taking. Both
Uganda, and Rwanda, may believe that they can overcome the
stalemate, and win a military victory in the Congo. Desperate to
salvage success from the stalemate, they may accept this gamble and
suffer defeat as a consequence.
Similarly, Kabila's defeats make him look weak at present. This
does not mean however that his allies will accept his and their
defeat. Common interests between them and Kabila have grown-up in
the more than two years of war. As a consequence, they have
incentives to stand by the government in Kinshasa. In this report,
ICG gives a comprehensive analysis of the intertwined dimensions of
the Congo conflict and offers some concrete proposals on how to
revive a meaningful peace process.
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