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Congo (Kinshasa): Peace & Transition

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Jan 11, 2004 (040111)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"While significant progress has been achieved in the Democratic Republic of the Congo ... the tangible benefits of peace have not yet filtered down to the war-weary Congolese population. Socioeconomic conditions remain dire throughout the country ... A key condition for success in national reconciliation will be a true partnership between the former belligerents in managing the transition."

This summary from the latest UN report on the peace process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) highlights both the hopes and fears characterizing African conflicts at the beginning of 2004. Commentators write of peace breaking out around the continent, citing the virtual absence of open conflict as compared to a year or two years ago. Yet as this case illustrates, the achievements are both incomplete and fragile.

Continued progress depends both on additional internal commitment and on international support, which presently falls short. International media attention is minimal. Thus a year-end review of US network television news coverage in ADT Research's Tyndall Report found Iraq-related stories accounting for 30 percent of all coverage, with a total of 4,047 minutes. The highest-profile African story was Liberia, with 72 minutes for the year, followed by AIDS, with 39 minutes, and Bush's Africa trip, with 18 minutes. The DRC received a total of 5 minutes of coverage during the year.

This issue of AfricaFocus Bulletin contains excerpts from two recent reports from the UN's Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) and from the Secretary-General's November report to the Security Council.

For ongoing coverage of developments in the Democratic Republic of Congo, an excellent source, in English as well as French, is the UN Mission's website in Kinshasa (http://www.monuc.org). In addition to reviews of the Congolese press and mission updates, this also includes audio from Radio Okapi, a UN-sponsored radio station that has stations and correspondents around the country. Another rich source is http://www.digitalcongo.net.

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Visit http://www.africafocus.org for news, analysis, advocacy

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Prospects For Peace Increase as Region Moves Into 2004

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
http://www.irinnews.org

January 9, 2004

Nairobi

The year 2004 is set to be a momentous one in the Great Lakes region in terms of its peace prospects, if the achievements made in 2003 are anything to go by.

Across the region - right from Burundi, the Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to Rwanda - the code words in 2003 seemed to have been transition to peace. ...

DRC

The determination to move from years of turmoil to peace and democracy is most obvious in the DRC, the largest country in the region and the third-largest in Africa, where President Joseph Kabila is reported to be committed to sticking to the transitional government timetable to hold democratic elections in 2005.

Kabila's spokesman, Mulegwa Zihindula, told journalists on 8 January 2004 in the capital, Kinshasa, that the president was committed to organising elections on time and that he felt the move would greatly contribute to the building of a strong DRC.

News reports following Zihindula's announcement indicated that South African President Thabo Mbeki was due to start an official visit to the country on 9 January, a sign that the DRC is keen on resuming normal bilateral relations with other African states.

Under an agreement signed in April 2003 in Pretoria, South Africa, a power-sharing transitional government of national unity was installed in DRC in June, with Kabila and leaders of former rebel movements setting up government institutions that had been devastated by more than six years of civil war.

However, all is not smooth sailing, inasmuch as restoring order in such a vast country has proved to be a rather slow process. The eastern provinces of North and South Kivu, and Ituri District in Orientale Province in the northeast are still experiencing sporadic fighting, with Ituri largely remaining under the control of rival militias, although a strengthened UN peacekeeping force is gradually restoring security there.

Moreover, the transitional government has yet to establish an independent electoral commission to oversee the elections scheduled to be held 24 months after the government's installation. Although the new parliament in December approved a law providing for the setting up of such a body, it has yet to be acted on.

The government is also struggling with establishing proper control of areas previously under rebel administration, while civilians in many parts of the country still face hardships such as shortages of food, water and other basic needs. Poverty levels remain low, with most Congolese said to be living on less than US $1 daily.

[for sections on Burundi, Central African Republic, Rwanda, and the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), see full report at http://www.irinnews.org/S_report.asp?ReportID=38831]


DRC: Continuing Concern Over Delays in Transitional Period

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
http://www.irinnews.org

January 9, 2004

Kinshasa

A committee overseeing the two-year transitional process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has again expressed concern about continuing delays on the part of the country's national unity government in adopting key legislation for the transitional period intended to culminate in national democratic elections.

The International Committee to Accompany the Transition comprising foreign ambassadors to the DRC and chaired by the UN Mission in the country, known as MONUC, made their concerns known in a statement issued on Thursday.

In an effort to make up for lost time, the DRC's two chambers of parliament - the Senate and the National Assembly, which had just ended their ordinary session on Monday - have been reconvened.

"We are fearful that if things do not get done quickly, we will not only not meet the two-year deadline set by the constitution for the organisation of elections but also go beyond the six-month supplementary period that has been provided," Pastor Kuye Ndondo, the president of the truth and reconciliation commission, one of five institutions meant to facilitate the transitional period, told IRIN.

Under the DRC's transitional constitution, the national unity government has from 24 to 30 months to organise national elections.

However, none of the five institutions - the truth and reconciliation commission; a national human rights observatory; a high authority for media; a national electoral commission; and a commission for ethics and the fight against corruption, as called for by the inter-Congolese dialogue - is yet fully functional, despite the transitional period having begun with the installation of a national government on 30 June 2003.

Furthermore, the proposed members of the five institutions have only recently been presented to the two chambers of parliament, which have not yet adopted laws on how the five institutions will function. "We do not understand why the parliament is blocking us with the non-adoption of all of these laws," Kuye said.

"This delay is unjustified. We think that those who control parliament [former government, former rebels, political opposition parties, Mayi-Mayi militias, civil society organisations] are impeding the process in an effort to keep themselves in power during the long transitional period," Nsii Luanda, the coordinator of national human rights NGO, Comite des observateurs des droits de l'homme, told IRIN.

[See earlier story, "Oversight committee chides transitional government for delays", at
http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=37352]


United Nations Security Council S/2003/1098

Fourteenth Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

17 November 2003

[Excerpts: full report available online in PDF format through http://www.un.org/documents]

VIII. Observations

62. While significant progress has been achieved in the Democratic Republic of the Congo over the past five months, considerable work still remains to be done on a number of key issues of the peace process, in order to solidify it and ensure that it is irreversible, On the positive side, former belligerents are working together in the Transitional Government, the process of uniting the territory of the formerly divided country has begun, and there are encouraging trends in peacemaking at the local level. Moreover, MONUC [United Nations Organization Mission in the DRC] and the wider international community are prepared to assist in strengthening the peace process through free and fair elections. All of these developments contribute to encourage and give hope to the Congolese people, who have suffered from the scourge of war for so long.

63.Also significant is the recent improvement in relations between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, as witnessed by the visit to Kinshasa of the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Rwanda, the first such visit of a senior Rwandan official in five years, and the visit to Kigali of the Minister for Regional Cooperation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I also welcome the decision by the Governments of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to reopen their embassies and resume talks at the senior level. I urge the Governments of the region to capitalize on the goodwill generated by the high-level meeting I convened in New York on 25 September, and continue to follow up with concrete steps to address bilateral and multilateral issues of mutual concern. To that end, MONUC will continue to actively encourage the States of the region to take the action necessary to build mutual trust and good-neighborly relations. Building on progress in this area, MONUC and the wider United Nations community stand ready to assist the Democratic Republic of the Congo and its neighbors in promoting subregional cooperation, including through the combined efforts associated with the planned international conference for the Great Lakes region, as well as organizations such as the Southern African Development Community and the Communaut‚ ‚conomique des pays des Grands Lacs.

64. I particularly appreciate the role played by South Africa, including the personal interest shown by President Thabo Mbeki, in collaborating closely with MONUC within the framework of the Third Party Verification Mechanism to help the parties implement the provisions of the Pretoria Agreement. It is a significant achievement of the Verification Mechanism that the parties have now agreed to pursue the remaining issues of the Agreement on a bilateral basis, with the assistance of MONUC where needed.

65. Nonetheless, significant challenges remain. Chief among these is the continuing presence of foreign armed combatants in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, which affects the overall security situation in that part of the country. The recent agreement between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda to establish a joint mechanism with MONUC to address the disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, resettlement or reintegration of Rwandan combatants is a step in the right direction. Another key issue is the continuing allegations of the presence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo of Rwandan military personnel. While MONUC has received assurances from the Government of Rwanda that this is not the case, some MONUC investigations of such allegations have been impeded recently by RCD-Goma military personnel. I call on all parties concerned to fully support MONUC investigations of such allegations and provide full freedom of movement for its military observers.

66. The disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, resettlement or reintegration of Rwanda combatants, and the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of Congolese combatants, are intricately linked to local-level political and economic dynamics in the eastern part of the country. By undertaking local conflict resolution initiatives, MONUC is addressing the heart of the matter, as well as the broader issues of land, resources, nationality and trans-border cooperation. It is imperative that the Transitional Government extend State administration throughout the eastern part of the country, that real progress be made in the integration of the armed forces at the provincial level, and that the Transitional Government take up the challenge of extending political and economic benefits to the population in that part of the country, especially North and South Kivu.

67. The situation in Ituri has been of particular concern. I am especially grateful to the Government of France, and to the European Union, for responding rapidly to my request of 15 May to deploy a multinational force for a limited period of time. It is undeniable that the presence of a robustly equipped force in Bunia, under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, helped to stave off an impending humanitarian crisis. Moreover, the deployment demonstrated the benefits of the international community working collectively and creatively in matters of peace and security. 68. Despite significant challenges, the efforts of MONUC and other international partners in stabilizing the situation in Ituri arc having results. The effective handover of military tasks from the Interim Emergency Multinational Force to MONUC and the rapid deployment of four MONUC battalions and various support elements in a short period of time, as well as the subsequent expanded deployment to areas outside Bunia, have been major accomplishments. I thank the troop-contributing countries for their cooperation, in particular the Government of Uruguay, for agreeing to station a battalion in Bunia at the height of the crisis there. Nonetheless, in view of the grim humanitarian and human rights situation continuing to prevail in Ituri, the military deployment of MONUC must be accompanied by a sustained political, humanitarian and civil effort by the international community.

69. In spite of the progress made against difficult odds, the tangible benefits of peace have not yet filtered down to the war-weary Congolese population. Socioeconomic conditions remain dire throughout the country, and gross human rights violations, including widespread sexual violence, continue to be perpetrated. Despite the strenuous efforts of the international community, the humanitarian situation is catastrophic. Much more work and substantial funding is required to ensure the implementation of the Transitional Government's road map for economic and social reunification and reconstruction, as well as the effective extension of its authority throughout the country.

70. While the elections planned for mid-2005 will be vital to setting down concrete foundations for a new, democratic and peaceful order in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it would be premature to begin active campaigning. The Congolese people have suffered for long and expect much of their leaders during the crucial two-year transitional period. A key condition for success in national reconciliation will be a true partnership between the former belligerents in managing the transition. I call on them to act collectively, in order to solidify the peace. They are also urged to redouble their efforts to take the necessary legal steps to establish the Integrated Police Unit and an integrated national police force; to finalize the process of appointing provincial governors and their deputies; to prepare a law on the army and defence policy; to elaborate and implement a comprehensive programme for the formation of an integrated national army; to establish a coordination body to elaborate and implement a national disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme; and to take concrete measures to accelerate the process of the disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, resettlement or reintegration in collaboration with MONUC and neighbouring countries.

71. A key concern during the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been the incessant flow of arms into the country, and its link to the illegal exploitation of natural resources. The arms transfers have contributed to the ongoing violence, especially in the east of the country, while the illegal exploitation of resources has robbed the Congolese people of their national wealth.

72. Under resolution 1493 (2003), the Security Council established an arms embargo on the Kivus and Ituri, and expressed its determination to consider necessary steps to ensure the effective monitoring and implementation of those measures, including the possible establishment of a monitoring mechanism. The Council also called on MONUC to step up is efforts in monitoring the arms embargo. I would like to propose that the Council consider a three-tiered approach to addressing the issue. Under the first tier, MONUC would continue to carry out its monitoring mandate, collecting and categorizing information in accordance with the means made available to it. Under the second tier, a small group of three to four technical experts would be formed to collect and conduct preliminary investigations of information both within the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in other countries as necessary. The group of experts would report to a third tier, a sanctions committee, which in turn would report and make recommendations to the Security Council and address the issue at the political level with Member States. Those reports would be independent of my regular progress reports on MONUC to the Council.

73. As the Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has completed its work, it would also be important to keep the spotlight on that important issue, and to encourage the Transitional Government to adopt the necessary laws to ensure the fair and equitable management of natural resources and help the international community to regulate its involvement in this vital sector. My Special Representative is considering the best way in which the United Nations system can address the matter, taking into account the economic and social mandates of the United Nations agencies and programmes, and I shall revert to the Security Council on this matter in my next progress report.

74. In closing, 1 wish to express my appreciation to my Special Representative, William Lacy Swing, and to all the men and women of MONUC for their outstanding efforts to support the peace process, despite the very challenging and often dangerous circumstances still prevailing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


AfricaFocus Bulletin is a free independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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