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The Inter-Congolese Dialogue: Political Negotiation or Game of Bluff?

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More than two years after the signing of the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement, the Inter-Congolese Dialogue officially opened in Addis Ababa on 15 October 2001, under the facilitation of Sir Ketumile Masire, the former President of Botswana. But the government of Joseph Kabila stonewalled, insisting that the absence of many delegates necessitated postponement. The meeting, scheduled to last 45 days, quickly deadlocked and was postponed to an unspecified date in South Africa. In the context of ongoing war, the failure was foreseeable. Should nothing change, the dice will remain loaded against the Dialogue. It was originally perceived as a way for the anti-government coalition to achieve its objectives. The rebels imposed the concept on then-President Laurent-Désiré Kabila to force him to accept power-sharing, but now neither side is strong enough to gain the upper hand either militarily or politically.

In the Lusaka Agreement framework, the Dialogue is supposed to prepare for a new political dispensation that liberates the Congolese from external occupation and interference. But neither Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe nor Angola want to see in Kinshasa a regime not under their control. President Kabila and his backers refuse to consider power-sharing through the Dialogue with anti-government rebels without guarantees of Rwanda and Uganda’s full withdrawal. At the same time the rebels and their sponsors, including Rwanda and Uganda, refuse to consider withdrawal until a transition government is established through the Dialogue and their security is guaranteed. As a result of this deadlock, low-intensity conflict remains the most attractive option to most of the external actors, and war grinds on in the Kivus thanks to continued support from Kinshasa and Harare to the Rwandan and Burundian Hutu militias. The states that have intervened in the Congo all have unsatisfied political and security "shopping lists" and want to retain access to the country's resources. This access enables the governments of Zimbabwe, Angola, Uganda, and Rwanda to reinforce themselves internally at a time of domestic succession or political transition. Since the death of the elder Kabila, the Dialogue has lost much of its attraction for the international community, which strongly supports the son and wishes to push him to resume the democratisation process Mobutu abandoned, negotiating directly with Uganda and Rwanda, rather than with the rebels. But the Kinshasa government is too weak to meet international expectations without an external mediator or guarantor.

In order for the peace negotiations to succeed, the international community should more actively support direct dialogue between the governments of the DRC and Rwanda, as demanded by UN Security Council Resolution 1376 of 9 November 2001. The resolution calls for the establishment of a joint co-ordination mechanism on disarmament, demobilisation, repatriation, resettlement and reintegration (DDRRR). Without this the Inter-Congolese Dialogue will remain a game of bluff rather than a transparent political negotiation.

The Inter-Congolese Dialogue must set as its primary objectives ending the war and rebuilding national Congolese institutions. The international community should also urge the Dialogue to come to grips with ethnic discrimination against the rwandophone communities of the Kivus, a poison sowed by Mobutu that is a major cause of ongoing fighting. Resolution of the conflict must include reconciliation, acceptance of the minorities' Congolese citizenship, and institutional and political guarantees for their security. More than anything, reconstruction of national institutions, reconciliation and the emergence of an autonomous and responsible Congolese leadership would create the conditions for restoration of full Congolese sovereignty and territorial integrity. But a careful review of objectives and what is needed to achieve them is required before another meeting is held to pick up the pieces from the failure at Addis Ababa.


To the United Nations Security Council and Donor Countries

1. Encourage the Secretary General of the United Nations to engage directly with presidents Kabila and Kagame in the direct dialogue on DDRRR called for in UN Resolution 1376 of 9 November 2001, as well as on the other aspects of the Lusaka Agreement peace process: disengagement, and inter-Congolese Dialogue.

2. Demand the immediate nomination of a support team of Congolese experts for Ketumile Masire, to start prompt mediation between the five components of the Inter-Congolese Dialogue and coordinate with the Secretary General’s mediation efforts.

3. Ask Masire to prepare before the next Dialogue meeting a clear presentation of objectives and methodology, a precise financial record on management of funds, and a redefinition of the terms of reference and indicators that will enable verification of progress after every meeting.

4. Request the foreign belligerents to make a formal public commitment to support the resolutions adopted by consensus in the Inter-Congolese Dialogue.

5. Insist that the Congo and Zimbabwe governments end the policy of transferring the war to the East (the Kivus) and cease support to the negative forces that are destabilising their countries of origin and wreaking havoc on the Congolese.

6. Provide the UN Mission (MONUC) with the technical, human and financial means to monitor re-supply of the negative forces on a permanent basis.

To the Facilitator's Office

7. Undertake urgent shuttle diplomacy between the key Dialogue actors to solve the pending matters of additional participants, final agenda and final rules and regulations.

8. Set a date for the South Africa meeting only when sufficient progress has been achieved on key issues with the major parties through the shuttle diplomacy mechanism.

9. Name a liaison officer who will be the link with each of the Congolese parties and with the donors, in order to maintain clear and precise communication, and appoint an official spokesman for the facilitation mission.

10. Propose that the Dialogue’s Peace and National Reconciliation Commission travel throughout the country to collect the grievances of the people.

11. Propose creation of two regional sub-commissions for the Ituri and Kivu problems respectively within the Dialogue’s Peace and Reconciliation Commission, with mandates to identify interlocutors and to prepare two regional conferences on reconciliation, with the objective inter alia of disassociating the Mai Mai and other armed Congolese groups from the Rwandan negative forces.

12. Organise regular and accurate dissemination of information on the Dialogue throughout the country To the Congolese parties to the conflict

13. To the government in particular, immediately cease all support to the Hutu armed groups in accordance with the commitments made by signing the Lusaka Agreement.

14. Include on the Dialogue's final agenda organisation during the transition of a regional conference on peace, security and sustainable development in the Great Lakes region, in preparation for the signing of a pact of non-aggression between the Congo, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi and of an agreement on free trade and free movement of people.

Brussels, Nairobi, Kinshasa, 16 November 2001


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