Congo: Five Priorities for a Peacebuilding Strategy

Posted in Africa | 12-May-09 | Source: International Crisis Group

A child prays in a church in February 2009 in Mweso, 100 kms northwest of the provincial capital Goma.

Nairobi/Brussels, 11 May 2009: The dire situation in the Kivus region of Congo will not improve without a comprehensive strategy of sustained political and results-oriented partnership between the government and the international community.

Congo: Five Priorities for a Peacebuilding Strategy ,* the latest report from the International Crisis Group, analyses the situation on the ground in the wake of the five-week joint military operation between the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda against Rwandan Hutu rebels, the Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Rwanda (FDLR), in the Kivus. That effort did not produce significant results and highlights the need for a new tack. The report presents a five-point strategy to drive a renewed process forward.

"The deal struck by the Congo and Rwanda for renewed military and political cooperation is not sufficient to bring peace to the Kivus", says James Yellin, Director of Crisis Group's Central Africa Project. "There have been dramatic policy shifts by both Congo and Rwanda in the Kivus, but they are still not taking full advantage of this diplomatic breakthrough".

Full normalisation of relations between Congo and Rwanda is essential if the eastern Congo and the Great Lakes region as a whole are to be stabilised. The agreement under which Rwanda accepted to withdraw its support for the renegade General Laurent Nkunda's Congrès National pour la Défense du Peuple (CNDP) insurgency and simultaneously press it to accept integration into the national army, while Kinshasa agreed to a joint military strike on its territory with the Rwandan army against the successors of the 1994 genocidaires, is an attempt to address a problem that has poisoned bilateral relations for fifteen years.

But the FDLR remains powerful, with up to 6,000 fighters, a strong chain of command and a political branch disseminating propaganda abroad. Its existence as a fighting force continues to disrupt efforts to build peace in the region.

Former CNDP leaders and Congolese army commanders have a horrendous record of causing severe suffering to civilians during their operations and of active involvement in the illegal exploitation of natural resources in North Kivu. Sexual violence has taken a catastrophic toll on the Kivu population and must be addressed decisively.

A peacebuilding strategy for the Congo should have five priorities: credible and comprehensive disarmament strategy for dealing with Rwandan Hutu rebels in both North and South Kivu; reform of the security sector; fostering reconciliation and human security; political engagement dedicated to improving governance; and continuing efforts to sustain stabile regional relations. The international monitoring group chaired by UN Special Envoy Olusegun Obasanjo and Great Lakes Envoy Benjamin Mkapa should work with both governments to support and implement this peacebuilding strategy, while donors should condition their support on adoption and implementation by Kinshasa of a comprehensive package of judicial measures to fight impunity.

"Unless momentum for radical reforms and decisive action against impunity are fostered, the Kivus will revert into a new state of low-intensity conflict under the radar screen of capitals but with continuing tragic consequences for its civilians", warns François Grignon, Director of Crisis Group's Africa Program. "Now is the time to concentrate efforts on a comprehensive strategy and on keeping both Rwanda and the Congo under pressure to abide by all the commitments they have made in the past few months".

Contacts: Andrew Stroehlein (Brussels) +32 (0) 2 541 1635
Kimberly Abbott (Washington) +1 202 785 1601
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*Read the full Crisis Group report on our website: