The belief that the promotion of peace, stability and democracy in Africa is of critical interest to the global community is a core principle of the Africa Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (WWICS).

Nowhere is this more true than in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a nation stretching over an area larger than Western Europe, bordering nine different countries, and now facing a unique opportunity to emerge from more than a decade of civil strife.

At the request of the international community and Congolese leaders, the Africa Program, in partnership with the Institut pour la Recherche et l'Education sur la Négociation en Europe (IRENE) based at Paris's ESSEC business school, launched in October 2005 a major capacity building initiative called the Initiative pour un Leadership Collaboratif et la Cohésion de l'Etat (ILCCE) to strengthen cohesion among Congolese leaders.

Based on training strategy and techniques that have been used successfully in Burundi since 2003 by the WWICS, this program was initially designed to help leaders from the main political parties and civil society groups navigate the difficult political transition in preparation for the first Congolese multiparty elections in four decades. Since then, more than 19 training workshops involving almost 460 individual leaders from both the political class and civil society, including leaders of national and provincial influence, and across ethnic and political affiliations, have been conducted in Kinshasa, Goma, Bukavu, Butembo, Uvira, and Minembwe.

Background on the Democratic Republic of Congo

With a population of 65 million and over 200 African ethnic groups in a country one-quarter the size of the United States, the DRC has had a turbulent history from the period of Belgian colonization to the 32 years of ruthless dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko. A massive inflow of refugees in 1994 from fighting in Rwanda and Burundi caused ethnic strife and civil war, leading to the overthrow of the Mobutu regime in May 1997 by a rebellion backed by Rwanda and Uganda and fronted by Laurent-Désiré Kabila. In July 1999, the Lusaka Agreement, a cease-fire, was signed by all parties involved in the war in the DRC: the DRC, Angola, Namibia, Rwanda, Uganda, and Zimbabwe; however, sporadic fighting continued. In 2000, the United Nations Mission to Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) was established to monitor the peace process in the Second Congolese war, yet the Eastern part of the country remained in turmoil with rebel groups financed in part by illegal extraction of resources. In 2001, President Laurent-Désiré Kabila was assassinated and his son, Joseph Kabila, took power. The 2002 Sun City Accords, which took place in South Africa between the warring parties of the Second Congolese War, hoped to end years of brutal war and set up a national unity government. By late 2003, a fragile peace emerged with the appointment of a new Transitional Government comprised of a "1+4 system," with Kabila as President and four Vice-Presidents drawn from former political opposition, rebel groups, and government officials. In 2006, Congo's first multiparty elections in four decades were held and Joseph Kabila was elected president, heralding a hopeful new era of political freedom and stability for the DRC.

The Program

Under the leadership of former Congressman and Presidential Special Envoy to Africa's Great Lakes Region and now Director of the WWICS Africa Program, Howard Wolpe, the DRC Leadership Training Initiative seeks to enable leaders from belligerent parties to meet four principle challenges in achieving durable peace: shift from a zero-sum mindset to one that recognizes interdependence; rebuild trust between leaders, which had been shattered by war; strengthen communication and negotiation skills; and rebuild a consensus on how power should be organized and decisions made.

The workshops use a combination of single and multi-day trainings that include case-studies, simulations, collaborative exercises, and problem solving. They include opportunities for leaders of diverse communities to "mix" and to talk about the conflicts between them. Participants are taught critical negotiation and mediation skills, such as the importance of active listening.

Key outcomes that emerged from the workshops held to date have included:
• a significant increase in collaborative decision making skills among participants (reflected in workshop interactions as well as ongoing networking and communication among previously hostile parties);
• networking dynamic among the participants; and,
• a willingness of participants to seek cooperative rather than confrontational problem-solving strategies.

An independent evaluation of the DRC Leadership Training Initiative by UNDP conducted in May-June 2007 found that "72% of interviewed participants say they have contributed to the reduction of all kinds of conflicts around them…due to a reinforced negotiation and listening capacity that they acquired during training."

In Kinshasa, UNDP has used a trust fund as the platform to coordinate and receive donor funds. So far, major donors such as the UK's Department for International Development (DFID), the Swedish and Norwegian governments, and the EC (European Commission) have contributed to the Fund. USAID and the Canadian government have also provided direct support to the WWICS. Funding support is being renewed for the next two years as the WWICS and ILCCE hope to build upon these earlier successes of strengthening the community's consensus building, communication, and negotiation skills, and expand the training to a broader range of targeted sectors, to include provincial governments and stakeholders in the most fragile areas of the Kivus, Katanga and Bakongo, the National Assembly, the Senate, the Council of Ministers and the new national army.

You can read more about this and other Congo-related resources at the Wilson Center by following the links below.

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