Get AfricaFocus Bulletin by e-mail!
Format for print or mobile
Congo (Kinshasa): Back to the Brink
Dec 19, 2004 (041219)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
"In Iraq ...the 2003 aid budget was $3.5 billion or $138 per
person. ... In spite of [the Democratic Republic of] Congo's rank
as the deadliest recorded conflict since World War II, the world's
humanitarian response in 2004 was a total of $188 million in aid or
a scant $3.23 per person." - International Rescue Committee
As the year draws to a close, the Democratic Republic of the Congo
(DRC), along with Sudan, stands as one of the most formidable
immediate challenges to the capacity of Africa and the
international community to curb violence costing millions of lives.
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains summaries from new briefings
from the International Crisis Group and the International Rescue
Committee on the imminent threat of escalated conflict in the DRC.
Meanwhile, the head of the African Union monitoring force in Sudan
warned that the unresolved conflict there was "a time-bomb." For
previous Bulletins and links to current news on Sudan, see
Another AfricaFocus Bulletin today contains a commentary on the
recent peaceful and well-run election in Ghana, one of five African
countries that held national elections in the last two months
with little international notice (the others were Botswana,
Namibia, Niger, and Mozambique).
NOTE: Today's two issues of AfricaFocus Bulletin are the last for
2004. My best wishes to readers for the holidays and for our common
work and concerns for Africa as we enter the new year. Publication
will resume in the second week of January.
AfricaFocus Bulletin will continue to need your support in 2005. To
make a voluntary subscription payment, visit
The AfricaFocus website is always available and regularly updated
with news feeds from AllAfrica.com and IRIN. For convenient access
to country-specific background links and news feeds, visit
Previous issues of AfricaFocus Bulletin are easily accessible on
the site. Topical listings include:
Politics and human rights
Peace and security
Economy and development
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++
Back to the Brink in the Congo
International Crisis Group
Nairobi/Brussels, 17 December 2004: Rwanda's dramatic escalation of
the conflict in the eastern Congo (Democratic Republic) risks
catastrophe in Central Africa. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan
should immediately convene an emergency meeting of all concerned
parties to prevent the impending disaster.
Back to the Brink in the Congo, the latest briefing from the
International Crisis Group, shows why Rwanda's recent armed
incursion into the Congo is a major threat to regional stability.
Two wars devastated the Congo in the past decade, resulting in some
3.8 million deaths, and both began the same way: with Rwandan
troops crossing the border into its giant neighbour's unstable
"We're now looking into the abyss of a third explosive calamity",
says Suliman Baldo, Crisis Group's Africa Program Director. "But
the situation can still be saved if the key players come together
now to hammer out a joint strategy".
Kigali has consistently complained about the continued presence of
the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) in North
and South Kivu provinces of the Congo, and the danger they pose to
Rwanda. The UN estimates FDLR forces to be some 8,000 to 10,000
strong; they do not seem to pose a serious military threat to
Rwanda, but recent signs the group has been readying attacks have
understandably raised tensions.
"Kigali has legitimate concerns about the FDLR in the Congo that
need to be addressed, but risking a return to full-scale regional
conflict only exacerbates the problem", says Susan Linnee, Crisis
Group's Central Africa Project Director. "Rwanda is playing with
The crisis is rooted in both failure to deal with security issues
in the Kivus and the faltering political process in Kinshasa meant
to produce a legitimate government in June 2005 elections. None of
the bilateral and regional security agreements have been
implemented. A major unfulfilled bargain is definitive Rwandan
withdrawal in exchange for disarming of the FDLR, voluntarily or by
the Congo transitional government's yet unreformed, weak army.
The Security Council should immediately direct the peacekeeping
mission (MONUC) to secure key border points, then sit all parties
down urgently, decide on a specific course of action with a
time-line, designate responsible actors, establish UN verification,
and apply a mix of muscle and diplomacy to make a comprehensive
solution possible. Donors should link their aid to progress on
these agreements, and the Council should punish either country --
an arms embargo and targeted measures against high officials -- if
it fails to fulfil its obligations.
Contacts: Andrew Stroehlein (Brussels) +32 (0) 485 555 946
Jennifer Leonard (Washington) +1-202-785 1601
Back to the Brink in the Congo
Nairobi/Brussels, 17 December 2004
Both wars that devastated the Congo (Democratic Republic) in the
past decade and led to some 3.8 million deaths began when
Rwandan troops crossed the border into that giant country's
unstable eastern region, the Kivus. History may be repeating itself
in recent weeks as a Rwandan incursion stirs fears of a third
catastrophe, but the situation can still be saved. There is
uncertainty about what is actually happening on the ground in the
isolated and rugged border terrain -- including whether the
Rwandans are holding territory -- but the strong government in
Kigali appears to have limited aims, and the weak government in
Kinshasa is unlikely to confront the invaders seriously. At the
least, however, the crisis threatens the Congo's fragile political
transition. At worst it could cause the Great Lakes region to go up
in flames again. The international community, including the UN,
whose peacekeeping mission (MONUC) has stood by ineffectively,
needs to sit all parties down for urgent discussions, decide on a
course of action and apply a mix of muscle and diplomacy to make a
comprehensive solution possible.
Antagonism between the Kivus' ethnic groups has been steadily
rising in the last few months. Increased Rwandan interference in
the two eastern provinces will add to the resentment of inhabitants
of other origins against those of Rwandan origin whom they tend to
view as collaborators with a foreign aggressor. In the recent wars,
many Congolese of Rwandan origin, and particularly Tutsis, actively
cooperated with the Rwandans and their local allies, the RCD-Goma.
They fear a repeat of past pogroms against their community by
government soldiers sent from Kinshasa to quell local rebellions or
repel Rwandan incursions. Fighting in the past few days for control
of Kanyabayonga between reinforcements sent by the government and
the North Kivu-based segment of the army made up of former
Rwanda-backed rebels and the resulting flight of civilians
underscore the dangers of ethnic polarisation and inter-communal
The crisis is rooted in both the failure to deal with security
issues in the Kivus and the faltering political process in
Kinshasa. Neither the 2002 Pretoria Agreement, which envisages a
transition culminating in election of a Congo government in June
2005, nor subsequent bilateral and regional security agreements
signed by the parties, have been implemented. A key bargain that
remains unfulfilled is definitive Rwandan withdrawal in exchange
for disarming of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda
(FDLR), the insurgent force with strong links to the g‚nocidaires
of 1994. It is time to end the cycle of impunity: donors should
link progress on these agreements directly to their aid and those
who undermine the agreements need to be held personally responsible
for their actions.
Rwanda's reckless decision to play with fire followed almost
immediately the summit pledge of eleven regional leaders, including
President Paul Kagame, to "fully support the national peace
processes in the region and refrain from any acts, statements or
attitudes likely to negatively impact them..." It has multiple
motivations. The 8,000 to 10,000 FDLR fighters in the Kivus are too
few and disorganised to pose an imminent military or political
threat to the country but they are a grave danger for civilians in
the Kivus on whom they prey, including those of Rwandan origin.
Kigali also wishes to maintain its political and economic influence
over the two potentially rich provinces.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan should convene an emergency meeting
to develop a coherent strategy that addresses all aspects of the
crisis: the continuing presence of armed FDLR, Rwandan security
needs, and the endangered Congolese political transition. Congo and
Rwanda should participate and voice their concerns and proposals.
On its past record, the international community will have no
difficulty speaking strongly to the effect that any sign of
continued support for the FDLR by the Congolese government, its
continued failure to disarm those rebels, a renewed Rwandan
incursion, and even continued dithering on the transition by
Congolese politicians is unacceptable. More difficult, but
necessary, will be to give teeth to those sentiments.
Should Congo or Rwanda fail to fulfil existing obligations or those
assumed in the course of the new process that Crisis Group believes
must be launched immediately, the Security Council, acting under
Chapter VII of the UN Charter in response to the threat to
international peace and security, should impose penalties on the
culpable party, including a targeted suspension of international
assistance (with care to minimise effects on the civilian
population); an arms embargo; and an assets freeze and travel ban
against high officials.
It will perhaps be even more difficult to reach agreement on
realistic measures to deal with the FDLR. Insecurity in the Kivus
is a fundamental source of tension and instability, crippling the
Congolese transition and poisoning relations between Rwanda and the
Congo. The FDLR presence there is a major element of the witches'
brew. Unfortunately, the voluntary program of disarmament,
demobilisation, repatriation, resettlement, and reintegration (DDR)
has failed. Forcible disarmament is called for and has received
some verbal support from the African Union (AU) and South Africa.
But the Congo's own army (the FARDC) is too weak. MONUC is
unwilling and in its present configuration perhaps incapable as
well. Creative thinking is needed to devise a workable compromise
combining more vigorous FARDC and MONUC steps, while MONUC and
others redouble their efforts to establish a functioning national
army capable of meeting the Congo's security needs and
Donors should turn the coordination body they have in Kinshasa --
the International Committee in Support of the Transition (CIAT) --
into a much more proactive body to further progress in the
politically deadlocked capital, including on the all important
reform of the security sector.
Once a plan has been devised, the Security Council should endorse
it and request that the Secretary General supervise its
implementation through his Special Representative in the Congo and
keep the Council closely advised.
If all this can be done, or at least set on its way, within the
next few weeks, perhaps another collapse of the Congo and war for
its riches can be headed off.
 This is the figure in a recent study by the International
Rescue Committee, "Mortality Rates in the Democratic Republic of
Congo: Results from a Nationwide Survey, Conducted April-July
2004", December 2004, available at
 "Dar-Es-Salaam Declaration on Peace, Security, Democracy, and
Development in the Great Lakes Region", First Summit of Heads of
State and Government, Dar-Es-Salaam, 19-20 November 2004, Ch. III,
 "Third Special Report of the Secretary-General on the UN
Organisation Mission in the DR Congo", S/2004/650, 16 August 2004.
For simplicity, Crisis Group uses the short form abbreviation DDR
in this briefing to cover the five concepts rather than DDRRR.
 Crisis Group plans to publish an extensive report on the
situation in the Kivus early in 2005.
International Rescue Committee
IRC study reveals 31,000 die monthly in Congo conflict and 3.8
million died in past six years. When will the world pay attention?
Amid a rapidly deteriorating security situation in the Democratic
Republic of Congo, the International Rescue Committee issued a
mortality survey today which finds that more than 3.8 million
people have died there since the start of the war in August, 1998
and more than 31,000 civilians continue to die monthly as a result
of the conflict.
"DR Congo remains by far the deadliest crisis in the world, but
year after year the conflict festers and the international
community fails to take effective action," says the IRC's Dr.
Richard Brennan, one of the study's authors. "In a matter of six
years, the world lost a population equivalent to the entire country
of Ireland or the city of Los Angeles. How many innocent Congolese
have to perish before the world starts paying attention?"
The latest mortality study, a joint effort by the IRC and
Australia's Burnet Institute, is among the most comprehensive ever
conducted in a conflict zone, covering 19,500 households. Mortality
data was collected for the period between January 2003 and April
- Teams of physicians and epidemiologists found that during this
time more than 1,000 people died every day in excess of normal
mortality, nearly 500,000 excess deaths in all, and almost half of
the casualties were among children under five.
- As documented by three previous IRC surveys in DR Congo, the vast
majority (this time 98%) were killed by disease and malnutrition,
byproducts of a war that destroyed much of the health care system
- Of particular importance is the finding that insecurity has a
powerful effect on death from both violent and non-violent causes.
In the eastern conflict-prone provinces where insecurity often
impedes access to humanitarian aid, death from infectious disease
and hunger is highest. If the effects of insecurity and violence in
Congo's eastern provinces were removed entirely, mortality would
reduce to almost normal levels. Such was the case in
Kisangani-Ville, where the arrival of peacekeepers helped quell
fighting, allowing the IRC and its partners to rehabilitate basic
health care, water and sanitation services. Crude mortality rates
subsequently declined by 79 percent and excess mortality was
In Iraq, where Sadaam Hussein's years of brutality, the effects of
sanctions and three wars have led to far fewer casualties than DR
Congo, the 2003 aid budget was $3.5 billion or $138 per person.
Precise aid figures for 2004 were unavailable. The desperate
situation in Darfur, Sudan, where an estimated 70,000 people have
died and some two million have been displaced, has led to more than
$530 million in foreign aid for 2004 or $89 for each person. In
spite of DR Congo's rank as the deadliest recorded conflict since
World War II, the world's humanitarian response in 2004 was a total
of $188 million in aid or a scant $3.23 per person.
"The international response to the humanitarian crisis in Congo has
been grossly inadequate in proportion to need," says Brennan. "Our
findings show that improving and maintaining security and
increasing simple, proven and cost-effective interventions such as
basic medical care, immunizations and clean water would save
hundreds of thousands of lives in Congo. There's no shortage of
evidence. It's sustained compassion and political will that's
The peace accords of 2002 fueled hope that the years of slaughter,
displacement, sexual violence and desperation would come to an end.
The subsequent deployment of international peacekeeping troops
coincided with the withdrawal of foreign forces, leading to
increased stability and humanitarian access and a dramatic decline
in mortality. A new transitional government was established, tasked
with reunifying the country.
In spite of all these advances, DR Congo is now dangerously close
to sliding back into full-scale war. Political progress has
stalled, the reduction in mortality has plateaued and a series of
violent incidents threaten to undermine the peace process and
destabilize the region. At this time, Rwanda is threatening to
attack Hutu extremists in DR Congo, while numerous reports indicate
an incursion has already taken place. This follows an explosion of
violence in the eastern city of Bukavu in June and the brutal
August massacre of nearly 160 Congolese Tutsi refugees at a camp in
Urgent action is needed to restore stability, strengthen the peace
process and address the underlying causes of the conflict. The IRC
makes the following recommendations:
- Stop the Violence. The recent scaling up of the UN peacekeeping
mission, MONUC, falls short of what's required, as the current
force remains largely incapable of protecting civilians or Congo's
borders. It is crucial that all of the requested 23,000 forces be
deployed. However, more of the same will not help. From the start,
the troops have been poorly equipped and trained and lacking in
commitment or will to carry out their mandate. It is vital that
MONUC be given the training, equipment and resources necessary to
implement their mandate -- to disarm and apprehend Rwandan Hutu
fighters, prevent cross-border incursions and arms flows, protect
vulnerable civilians and restore stability to eastern provinces.
- Promote lasting peace. Donor governments must hold all parties
involved in the conflict more accountable, ensuring they abide by
and effectively implement the December 2002 Pretoria peace
agreement and subsequent accords. Peace in the east must be made a
priority. More pressure from the international community must be
exercised on foreign governments, forces and militias to cease
violent and destabilizing actions in DR Congo. Donor governments
must also insist on improved management of Congo's natural wealth
and support recommendations outlined by the UN panel on illegal
exploitation of natural resources in DR Congo. In addition, key
governments must work toward improved coordination and
implementation of the critical disarmament, demobilization and
reintegration process for foreign and Congolese combatants.
- Vastly increase humanitarian aid. Save Lives. The current level
of international humanitarian assistance for Congo is abysmal and
basic needs are not being met. While European donors slightly
increased funding in 2004, the US government reduced its support.
In general, global donors have fallen far short of the UN's funding
appeal for DR Congo. This appeal must be met. As suggested by the
IRC's survey, simple inexpensive aid interventions could revive the
health system and save hundreds of thousands of lives. The IRC
urges donor nations to scale-up aid to meet the region's immense
needs. Congolese civil society is vibrant and needs to be
empowered. With appropriate support, it will be able to regain
self-sufficiency and mitigate further conflicts in the region.
AfricaFocus Bulletin is an 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.
AfricaFocus Bulletin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please
write to this address to subscribe or unsubscribe to the bulletin,
or to suggest material for inclusion. For more information about
reposted material, please contact directly the original source
mentioned. For a full archive and other resources, see