[Note: A transcript of this meeting is unavailable. The discussion is summarized below.]
At this month's Great Lakes Policy Forum we heard from Ambassador Howard Wolpe, U.S. Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region, State Department and John Prendergast, Special Adviser for African Affairs, State Department. The discussion centered around Burundi and the Arusha Peace Process as well as an update on the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
· Burundi and the Arusha Peace Process
Three days preceding the Arusha summit, President Mandela had invited the parties to come to Arusha to discuss the many issues that had yet to be resolved. The discussions were difficult but proved to be highly productive. A great deal of progress was made on some of the more contentious issues and there was a narrowing of the differences of the parties who have hated each other for the past two years. Nelson Mandela, who served as facilitator of the Arusha process, had a heavy hand in the presentation of the a third party compromise document that the facilitation team had presented earlier, with an injunction that nothing could be changed in the document. The parties were asked to accept this document unamended. This lead to some dispute over whether what was written in the document, was actually what had been agreed upon. Mr. Mandela insisted that the document contained everything that had been agreed upon. Furthermore, nothing could be changed at this point in the negotiations, as that would have compromised the anonymity of the participants.
The combination of pressures such as this has accelerated the pace and the intensity of the Arusha negotiations.
The biggest issues that were addressed during this negotiation process were:
- The absence of a cease-fire agreement
Neither the FDD or the FNL rebel groups were present at the Arusha negotiation table. This was an apparent flaw in the peace talks. There was an FDD delegation present at the talks, but they were not mandated to negotiate, by their leader, Jean Bosco.
- The issue of a transitional government
The parties themselves are supposed to agree on the transitional leadership. There was some talk about a transitional government between President Buyoya, government and other key players, but they are still far from any resolution
- The electoral system
The government wanted the creation of a Senate during the transitional period. They hoped that it would be a balanced Senate, comprising of 50% Hutu and 50% Tutsi.
In terms of the National Assembly, the FRODEBU and the government agreed upon an expansion of the Assembly. This was negotiated in order to maintain as little resistance to the Arusha process as possible. If people felt secure in their present positions, there would be less opposition to negotiation.
- The implementation commission
The Arusha accord calls for the organization of a mechanism to monitor the implementation process, and which would be chaired by the United Nations.
- The issue of security for leaders wishing to return from the Diaspora for the Arusha negotiations
This seems to be one of the trickiest issues to resolve. There is a sense of urgency right now, and it would not be beneficial to have a long hiatus between the signing of the agreement and the ability for these leaders to participate in the decision to be made about the transitional government.
Furthermore, on the 15th August 2000, the participants of the Arusha process will come together to talk about a Donors conference that, theoretically, should be held by the end of September or early October, in Paris, France. The purpose of this conference would be two-fold:
- Figuring out ways of organizing a demobilization and reintegration package that would create incentives for cease-fire negotiations.
- Planning and coordinating long term economic and reconstruction efforts so that peace will have concrete and tangible meaning for Burundians on the ground through proper international channels.
· The Democratic of Congo (DRC)
The human rights situation in the Kivus is possibly the most serious human rights crisis that the U.S. is facing at this time. The level of human rights abuses is different, depending on the location. For example, in Goma there is the strong impression that there is a triangle of deterioration.
Against the backdrop of the greater issues which is the Lusaka agreement, there are three trends that are quite apparent in the DRC:
- There is an increase in violence in the entire region. There are increased attacks by the FDD and the Interhamwe and counter attacks by the RCD and the RPA.
- Ultimately, this is a difficult context for human rights groups to be working within.
- There is an increase in criminal activity and banditry.
- There is an increase in economic degradation. There is a continued interruption of trade and production which is combined with an increased level of displacement from IDP camps and settlements. Ultimately, this leads to a cocktail of despair that leaves people with little option for the future. Furthermore, this inevitable depression makes it easier for criminal organizations to recruit young people.
There is a move to compose a strategy that focuses the US government into working with NGO's and Congo experts to respond the humanitarian needs that are becoming desperate in the Congo. Ultimately, working within the community structures is key for peace and reconciliation within the Congo.
Please contact Chloe Marnay Baszanger,
Research Associate for the Center For Preventive Action,
Rapporteur for the Great Lakes Policy Forum