Kikaya Bin Karubi, Minster of Information and Vital Kamerhe, Chief Negotiator to the DRC Government, two high-ranking officials of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), spoke to a large audience of the policy community in Washington, presenting Kinshasa’s view of the current state of the regional peace process in the DRC. Their view was that President Joseph Kabila had been the impetus behind initiatives that led to the signing of three recent agreements constituting the “three pillars of the peace process”: the Pretoria Agreement between Rwanda and the DRC, the Luanda Agreement between Uganda and the DRC, and the recently concluded “all-inclusive and global agreement of all parties to the conflict.” With these three agreements in hand, they argued, there was no reason for the conflict to continue.
Nonetheless, they acknowledged, the implementation of these agreements faced major obstacles, and the DRC would require the assistance of the international community to help the other parties to the conflict understand that they were still operating on the basis of the logic of war, rather than the logic of peace.
Ambassador Kamerhe said that the two outstanding issues relating to the peace process were (1) securing the full withdrawal of Rwandan troops from the DRC, and (2) disarming the former Rwandan Army (ex-FAR) and Rwandan Hutu militia (Interahamwe) fighters still operating inside the Congo. The Government was encouraged by the progress that had been made, but admitted that much remained to be done on both fronts. While some Rwandan troops had recently been withdrawn, Kamerhe contended that some still remain in the DRC. With respect to the disarmament of the Hutu fighters, he said that the Government had done its part by delivering persons suspected of involvement in the 1994 Rwandan genocide to the International Criminal Tribunal at Arusha, by cantoning and disarming Hutu fighters within the area of their control, and by prohibiting these elements from all political activity within the DRC. However, in the Rwandan-controlled areas, MONUC (the UN peace observation mission) had been slow to establish cantonment centers and to implement Rwandan Hutu disarmament and demobilization. The UN Secretary-General recently reported that some 12,000 Hutu insurgents remained in the eastern part of the DRC.
The Kinshasa government, the two officials stated, remained committed to organizing a new inclusive transitional government on the basis of the agreements that had been reached, and to preparing for elections that would be held in two years time. But the Government saw five obstacles lying in the way of continued progress:
Continued fighting in Uvira, in the Eastern Congo, involving Rwandan troops, Congolese Mai Mai elements, and a dissident faction of the Rwandan-supported rebel group;
The emergence of a new Congolese militia in the Kivus which, in their view, amounted to Rwanda continuing “a war by proxy;”
a similar development in Ituri, where Uganda had a hand in the creation of a new rebellion, the Union of Patriotic Congolese (UPC);
the Liberation Movement for the Congo (MLC) fighting in Beni, which the UN reports has been accompanied by major human rights violations, including cannibalism;
the MLC and RCD rejection of an invitation to all parties by President Kabila on December 24, 2002 to negotiate a constitution.
Minister Karubi and Ambassador Kamerhe also stated that because the other parties have resisted the Government’s initiatives, the mandate of the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy, Mustapha Niasse, had been extended. Remaining tasks include the writing of a transitional constitution, the convening of all military leaders to negotiate issues of Army integration, working out a satisfactory means of assuring security for all inside the DRC, and then convening a plenary of all the parties to adopt the draft constitution and to formally ratify the global-inclusive agreement negotiated recently in Pretoria. They said the new transitional institutions would then be launched – hopefully by March 2003.
Both Karubi and Kamerhe stressed the need for continued international presence in the region. The Kinshasa view is that more pressure should be placed on Rwanda and Uganda to permit the reconciliation process to move forward. Humanitarian help to Ituri, they said, should expand. MONUC should also increase its numbers to deter further attacks and fighting in Eastern DRC. Finally, the international community should help in the creation of a new national army and in the monitoring of free elections.
In the Q and A session that followed their presentations, the two Kinshasa officials were challenged to recognize that the government shared with the other belligerent parties responsibility for the continued violence in the East, and, like the other parties, the government had yet to get beyond the logic of war and confrontation. All parties, it was suggested, needed to begin to think about confidence-building gestures they each might make to insure that the new transitional government would have the requisite degree of stability and inter-group cooperation.
Howard Wolpe, Consulting Director, the Africa Project, (202) 691-4046
Nicole Talmadge, Program Assistant, the Africa Project, (202) 691 4097