A Congo Action Plan

Posted in Africa | 19-Oct-05 | Source: International Crisis Group

OVERVIEW

More than two years into the transition in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the peace process remains at risk. As many as 1,000 people a day still die from war-related causes -- mainly disease and malnutrition, but also continuing violence. While the main belligerent leaders are all in the transitional government, their corruption and mismanagement threaten stability during and after the forthcoming national elections, now postponed from June 2005 to March 2006. The international community needs to maintain pressure on a wide front, making specific security sector reform, transitional justice and good governance measures prerequisites for the elections, not allowing them to be postponed until there is a new government.

The 2002 Global and All-Inclusive Agreement created the present transitional government out of the main domestic warring parties and committed it to a plan for reunification of the country, disarmament and integration of armed groups, and elections. Some progress has been made. The parliament has passed a draft constitution (though it faces an uncertain referendum in November) and laws on citizenship, the national army and political parties. The former belligerents have begun to merge their separate administrative structures and armed groups. But the process with respect to reform of the security sector, as well as the judiciary and local administration, is far from complete.

The main reason for the impasse, including postponement of elections, has been the reluctance of the former belligerents to give up power and assets for the national good. All have maintained parallel command structures in the army, the local administration and the intelligence services. Extensive embezzlement has resulted in inadequate and irregular payment of civil servants and soldiers, making the state itself perhaps the largest security threat to the Congolese people.

State weakness also allows armed groups in the east to continue to abuse civilians. The Rwandan Hutu insurgent group, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), has refused to honour its March 2005 pledge to return home peacefully and has committed several massacres. In northern Katanga, Mai-Mai groups have fought each other and the Congolese army, displacing over 280,000 people in the province. And in Ituri, despite some robust actions by the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), 4,000 to 5,000 combatants still regularly attack the local population, international troops and humanitarian officials.

The coming year will be decisive for the Congo, one of Africa's largest and potentially richest countries. A successful transition is by no means guaranteed. Unfortunately it is quite possible that political leaders will continue to block critical transitional reforms and try to skew the elections in their favour. There are reasonable grounds for fearing electoral manipulation and even a relapse into mass violence that would put at severe risk both the unity of the Congo and the stability of much of the continent.

If these dangers are to be avoided, the UN Security Council and other key members of the international community must press the transitional government to take comprehensive action to stop the suffering of the Congolese people, and ensure the success of the transition by June 2006. This briefing spells out a comprehensive action plan, built around five critical objectives, with the following major elements:

  • One: free and fair elections. The parliament must pass key electoral laws; President Kabila must keep his commitment to appoint new local administrations that fairly reflect the power-sharing agreement signed in Pretoria in 2002; and the international community must set up an effective system for monitoring the elections anticipated in March 2006.
  • Two: good governance and justice. A joint donors/ Congolese mechanism should be implemented to curb state corruption; donor aid should be tied to specific progress on good governance and strengthening Congolese institutions, in particular the judiciary and parliamentary commissions; a specialised human rights chamber should be established within the court system to supplement the work of the International Criminal Court (ICC); and the Security Council should enact targeted sanctions against the violators of the arms embargo.
  • Three: an integrated national army and police force to establish security. Donors should create an International Military Assistance and Training Team (IMATT) to integrate all aid and training for the new security forces; assistance for security sector reform should be increased and a working group established to coordinate support for police development.
  • Four: disarmament, demobilisation and repatriation of the FDLR. Peaceful efforts to entice the FDLR home must be exhausted, with Rwanda clarifying which officers it intends to prosecute for genocide and offering more generous incentives for others to return; there should be international monitoring of the return process and targeted Security Council sanctions against hard-line leaders, especially those in Europe. In parallel, there should be preparation for, and commencement of, military pressure on the FDLR, with MONUC taking the initial lead.
  • Five: fulfilment of MONUC's mandate to protect civilians. The UN Security Council needs to authorise more troops for MONUC; the EU and other donors should give it greater access to intelligence assets; and either MONUC's mandate should be formally strengthened or its concept of operations should be clarified to ensure that it acts more robustly and proactively against the FDLR and other armed groups.

    Nairobi/Brussels, 19 October 2005

Africa Briefing N°34

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