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Great Lakes Policy Forum—Meeting Summary—April 13, 2000

April 13, 2000
Council on Foreign Relations


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

This meeting focused on the current political situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with particular focus on the Kivu region of eastern DRC. Presentations were made by John Prendergast, Special Advisor for African Affairs, U.S. Department of State; Professor Herbert Weiss, Columbia University; and Ely Dieng, Operations Analyst, African Post-Conflict Group, World Bank. Professor I. William Zartman, Director of African Studies at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, facilitated.

Current situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Since July 1999, the situation on the ground has largely remained unchanged. However, the growing problem that can be observed is the alliance between the Mayi-Mayi and the Kabila regime. This alliance is evidenced by the fact that the Mayi-Mayi militia are being supplied by the Kabila regime, and some of their leaders have been named generals in Kabila's army. Indeed, one of them has now been named chief of staff of the DRC army. Furthermore, the international backing of various factions is also undergoing some important changes. According to one participant, Kabila has had a major diplomatic victory in New York. He was invited among the heads of state, while the rebel movements sat in the visitors' gallery. Moreover, Zimbabwe has also become a weak ally of the Kabila regime because of the internal situation, while the MPLA government of Angola has the potential of becoming a stronger ally of the Kabila regime, as its power position within Angola has improved. On the other side, Uganda and Rwanda are becoming increasingly isolated and seem to be pursuing different policies, and their alliance is becoming more strained. Both are undergoing internal developments, such as the resignation of the Speaker of the Parliament and the President in Rwanda. These events have unbalanced the situation since last summer. A participant argued that the Lusaka agreement was a product of a military and diplomatic situation in which there was a balance of power, with both sides convinced that victory was not likely. Today the situation is volatile, and any evidence that one of the groups has the power to win will likely destroy the fragile cease-fire.

Other participants, however, applauded the agreement by the Joint Military Commission, the Political Commission, and the chiefs of staff of the armies of the various signatories that emerged from Kampala during the first week of April. The main element of this agreement was the re-commitment to a cease-fire. A participant suggested that the international community should support the monitoring of this agreement and should intensify planning to address the fundamental issues that remain since the Lusaka agreement was signed.

Explosive situation in the Kivus

The situation in the Kivus requires special attention, because it is potentially explosive. If the confrontations continue with major massacres and major casualties, this could destroy the Lusaka accord. The rebels have failed to impose themselves and are seen by the population as the invading occupying armies. The Mayi-Mayi are gaining in strength and are allied with the Rwandan Interahamwe and the Burundian FDD (Forces pour la Défense de la Démocratie). In south Kivu, there is a split among the Congolese Tutsi, the Banyamulenge. The rural Banyamulenge are now convinced that the RCD (the main rebel movement, the Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie) and the Rwandans have thoroughly compromised their goals, which are to be recognized as Congolese citizens, and allowed to live as such in peace. That faction has become more outspoken in opposing the Rwandan invasion and the RCD, while simultaneously opposing Kabila and seeking to make some sort of local peace with the Mayi-Mayi.

One participant suggested that the situation in the Kivus is undermining the Lusaka process and that the acts committed there should receive more condemnation, analysis, and response from the international community. Diplomatic response is not enough to prevent the peace process from been endangered. Concrete actions should be taken. An international presence should be established in the Kivus to assure contact not only with Kinshasa, but with all sides of the conflict, including the non-violent opposition. Finally, the idea of finding a mediator for the Kivus has been proposed. Somebody of stature could help the negotiation of a temporary local peace until the Lusaka process goes forward and brings the withdrawal of the Rwandans.

Any comments please contact Veronique Aubert

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