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  Scramble for the Congo: Anatomy of an Ugly War

The International Crisis Group (ICG) releases today a major new 120-page report on the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, entitled Scramble for the Congo: Anatomy of an Ugly War.

Eighteen months after the Lusaka Agreement, there is still no end in sight to Africa’s seven- nation war. The accord largely froze the armies in their positions, but did not stop the fighting.

The lightning strike that Rwanda and Uganda unleashed in August 1998 to overthrow Kabila has since become a war of occupation, and risks becoming an unsustainable war of attrition. The mandated United Nations observers, who were to oversee the disengagement of forces, have remained for the most part unable to deploy due to the continuation of hostilities. Similarly, the Inter-Congolese Dialogue, which was to have brought a ‘new political dispensation’ to the Congo, appears stillborn.

All belligerents are, however, determined to recoup something for the blood and treasure they have invested in the Congo. Despite his refusal to implement Lusaka, Laurent Kabila is still supported - by default - by his allies, who have developed their own economic and strategic interests in the DRC. Rwanda and Uganda, together with the rebel forces they sponsor, have recently strengthened their military positions.

Faced with this impasse in the peace process, the Congo has begun to fragment, and a humanitarian catastrophe is underway. Up to 2 million people have been displaced by the conflict and a quarter of a million have fled to neighbouring countries as refugees. The violence has also encouraged the growth of ethnic militarism, and the east of the country has been transformed into a patchwork of warlords’ fiefdoms. The territorial integrity of the Congo is threatened, as will in time be the stability of its nine neighbours if the chaos continues.

In this report, ICG provides a uniquely comprehensive analysis, based on extensive field research, of the intertwined regional, national and local dimensions of the Congo conflict. The report makes several concrete proposals designed at reviving the peace process by de-linking the three key elements of the Lusaka agreement - the disengagement and withdrawal of foreign forces, the disarmament of armed groups, and the Inter-Congolese Dialogue - in order to permit maximum forward progress on each.


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