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Great Lakes Policy Forum—Meeting Summary—May 7, 1998

Speakers: Howard Wolpe, Presidential Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region, Nils Tcheyan, Country Director, The World Bank, Alfreda Brewer, DRC Desk Officer, USAID, and Elisabeth Tsehai, Coordinator, Corporate Council on Africa’s Congo Working Group
May 7, 1998
Council on Foreign Relations


[Note: A transcript of this meeting is unavailable. The discussion is summarized below.]

The meeting featured a report on Burundi by Ambassador Howard Wolpe, Presidential Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region; and presentations on aid to and trade with the Democratic Republic of Congo by Nils Tcheyan, Country Director at The World Bank; Alfreda Brewer, DRC Desk Officer at USAID; and Elisabeth Tsehai, Coordinator of the Corporate Council on Africa’s Congo Working Group.


One of the key questions to resolve before the peace talks resume in Arusha on 15 June is “Who is taking part, and who is not?” The talks have been billed as “all-party talks” and are important for three reasons:

  • It is the first time that all parties to the conflict, including the extremists, have attempted to mediate a settlement together. Agreements reached during this round are more likely to be complied with because all parties will be involved in the decision-making and drafting processes.
  • Authorities are trying to enact a package of power-sharing reforms before the current parliament’s term ends at the end of June.
  • Former Tanzanian President Nyerere has stated that if the process is launched, and if all parties attend, this could be seen as a promising precondition to the lifting of the current economic sanctions imposed on Burundi by the regional governments. Tanzania is well known to be the initiator and strongest supporter of these sanctions.

The “internal process” launched by President Buyoya includes new provisions for power-sharing between the government and the National Assembly, and this initiative has provoked reactionary and sometimes confusing statements. CNDD suspended its leader, Nyangoma, and criticized the government’s plan as being a dishonest one - one intended to avoid the external mediation process under the leadership of President Nyerere. The interior FRODEBU opposition has overtly expressed support for and interest in the internal partnership, while the exiled FRODEBU faction in Dar es Salaam still refuses to recognize Buyoya as the official leader of the country. UPRONA is now staunchly divided between its non-parliamentary members, who oppose all mediations with opposition groups, and a faction led by former President Bagaza that opposes the internal power-sharing process but not the external one.

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

At the last Friends of Congo meeting in December 1997 in Brussels, donors agreed on several key points:

  • Congo needs donor support. Donors believe that a positive message must be sent to the Congolese people.
  • The dismal inheritance of the Kabila government is daunting. The government took over a failed state, and the institutional change process this necessitates is a very difficult endeavor.
  • The effort to mobilize resources for DRC should be coordinated under the leadership of the Chair, Sweden. The proposed mechanism is a Trust Fund for Reconstruction, which has initial commitments of U.S. $32 million (this figure does not include direct bilateral assistance), and will target sectors such as transportation/roads, education, and health.
  • Donors are aware that the current volume of multilateral aid is not what it could be or should be and acknowledged disappointment expressed by Congolese officials at this low level.
  • The Trust Fund for Reconstruction is not tied to or conditional on International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreements with DRC, even with respect to the payment of debt arrears. However, this issue raises a broader topic of what DRC will need to accomplish in order to secure new IFI agreements. As with all African countries, IFI agreements ensure much larger aid packages and are made with a long-term vision for the country and not on the basis of the relationship with the current government. Current obstacles to IFI agreements with DRC include the clearance of debt arrears (and to make matters worse, payments were just drastically scaled-back by the DRC Central Bank) and the absence of a government initiative to move toward more liberal economic and social change.

The prospects for future aid to DRC are excellent, but the process is not quick or easy. One of the more promising aspects of aid to DRC is the catalytic effect that it will have on economic growth and capital formation. Donors recognize that prosperity and stability in DRC will greatly affect the region and the whole continent, and should move forward by incorporating flexibility with the current political realities.


In June of 1997, USAID conducted a three week analysis of DRC under the Kabila regime and decided to reengage after having left the country in 1994. Since mid-1997, USAID operations have been conducted out of three field offices located in Lubumbashi, Bukavu, and Kanaga. Each field office provides support to reconstruction and reconciliation activities in small communities, with the aim of alleviating bottlenecks between needs and lack of resources. The community-initiated process of identifying needs and proposing solutions has been an important result of this work.

A country representative arrived in mid-February 1998 to staff the Kinshasa office and coordinate the activities of the field offices. The total USAID budget for FY98 will be approximately $40 million, which includes a pledge of $10 million for the Trust Fund for Reconstruction. The country strategy for the next 2 to 3 years is to support projects in the areas of health, environment, private sector development, and democracy and governance.

Several congressional acts prohibit USAID from moving forward with direct bilateral assistance, although exceptions and waivers to these acts make the current and other proposed levels of support possible. The main congressional acts that hinder aid are:

  • The Faircloth provision, which prohibits assistance to the central government of the DRC until the President submits a written report to Congress that the government of DRC is cooperating fully with U.N. investigators and accounting for human rights violations in or adjacent to DRC.
  • The Brooke provision, which prohibits assistance to countries in arrears for a period of more than one year on foreign assistance loan repayments.

Corporate Council on Africa

The Corporate Council on Africa, a membership organization of private-sector, for-profit companies, has three working groups on Africa: Nigeria, Algiers, and DRC. The DRC working group undertook a trade mission in March 1998, where they were addressed by Kabila and a few of his top aides. The mission stressed that while investment will take place in DRC, a higher quantity and more solid investment will occur if increased political security and adherence to rule of law effectively lower investors’ risk.

The working group noted that there is a lack of clarity with respect to contractual agreements, their enforcement, and fiscal corruption. On a negative note, Kabila suspended two national trade associations in late April.


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