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Great Lakes Policy Forum—Meeting Summary—March 2, 2000

March 2, 2000
Foreign Affairs

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

This meeting focused on the Disarmament of Armed Groups in the DRC and on strategies to address the peace in the region, with a particular attention to the Kivu region of Eastern DRC. Presentations were made John Prendergast Special Adviser for African Affairs, 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. The Mayi-Mayi are being supplied by the Kabila regime, some of their leaders have been named generals in Kabila's army, and indeed one of them has now been named chief of staff of the DRC army. Furthermore, the International backing is also undergoing some important changes. For one participant, Kabila has 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. On the other hand, Angola could become 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 certain internal developments, such as the resignation of the Speaker of the Parliament and the President.) All those events have unbalanced the situation since last summer. A participant suggested that the Lusaka agreement was a product of a military and diplomatic situation, in which there was a balance of power, the cease-fire convinced both sides that victory was not likely. Today the situation is unbalanced and one or the other side gets the impression that it has the power to win, which brings the fragile cease-fire that now exist, likely to collapse.

However, other participants have applause the agreement that emerged from Kampala during the first week of April out of the work of the Joint military Commission, the political commission, and the chief of staff of the armies of the various signatories. 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 and reporting of this agreement and should intensify the planning for addressing the fundamental issues that remained un-addressed since that 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 itself destroy the Lusaka process. Focus must kept on the one area where there is continuous bloodshed, violence, and conflict. The rebels have failed to impose themselves and are seen as the invading occupying armies. The Mayi-Mayi are gaining in strength and are allied with Interahamwe and FDD. (This actually diminshes the legitimacy they had acquired in the Lusaka agreement, because the Lusaka agreement clearly spells out the Interahamwe and ex-Far.)

In south Kivu, there is a split among the Congolese Tutsi, the Banyamulenge. The rural Banyamulenge are now convinced that the RCD and the Rwandans have thoroughly compromised their hands and they want to be recognized as Congolese citizen, and be allowed to live as such in peace. That faction has become more and more outspoken in opposing the Rwandan invasion, in opposing the RCD, while at the same time also opposing Kabila, seeking to make some sort of local peace with the Mayi-Mayi.

One participant suggested that the situation in the Kivus is sabotaging the Lusaka process and that it should receive more condemnation, analysis and response from the international community. Diplomatic response is not enough to prevent the process from been endangered and concrete actions should be taken. Moreover, an international presence should be established in the Kivus and contact should not exist only with Kinshasa, but also 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 some 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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