Disarmament in the Congo: Preventing Further War
NAIROBI/BRUSSELS, 16 December 2001: The Congo war, which began in 1998, has not yet ended. While the cease-fire signed in Lusaka in 1999 is respected on conventional front lines, the underlying causes of the conflict have not been resolved and people are still dying every day from fighting, hunger and disease. In a new report, Disarmament in the Congo: Jumpstarting DDRRR* to Prevent Further War, ICG urges far greater international involvement in resolving the Congo conflict. Disarmament of the Hutu armed groups is just part of the solution. DRC and Zimbabwe must be pressured to stop supporting the Hutu militias which they fund as a proxy DRC army against Rwandan and Ugandan forces. A political agreement must also be found on the withdrawal of foreign forces, most critically those of Rwanda in the eastern Congo, as well as the other Lusaka signatories. Disarmament is also linked to the Inter-Congolese Dialogue, the only forum through which DRC can rebuild its political institutions. The Dialogue is also deadlocked by the demands of external powers and will require vigorous shuttle diplomacy to succeed. DDRRR is not well advanced. It is extremely complicated and difficult not least because many of the leaders of the armed groups are alleged masterminds of the 1994 genocide. They avoid contact with the United Nations Observer Mission in Congo (MONUC) or other international officials for fear of arrest. Rwanda, which is trying to urge rank and file rebel recruits to disarm and return home under the DDRRR program, understandably refuses to negotiate with alleged genocidaires. There has recently been some progress following the capture of 2000 rebel fighters in Rwanda, and agreement by the Kabila government to permit MONUC screening of about 1800 men, but the opportunity is limited. If these men are not successfully reintegrated there is little incentive for the estimated 20 000 or more other Rwandan Hutu rebels to come forward. ICG Africa Program Co-Director Fabienne Hara said: “Disarmament has to be linked to political processes in the region. Otherwise there is a serious danger that fighters will simply be recycled into new conflicts, especially as the war is continuing in eastern Congo and tensions are also rising between Rwanda and Uganda, who are building up their troop presence in the Congo.” ICG calls on the United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan to take a personal, ongoing role as mediator between Rwanda and the DRC. His ultimate objective should be a non-aggression pact between the two countries and complete withdrawal of foreign forces. The Secretary General should also appoint a UN representative to work on a political agreement on DDRRR, negotiating local cease-fires in the Kivus and then overseeing DDRRR implementation. ICG Africa Co-Director John Prendergast said: “Without considerable improvement in international support, the Democratic Republic of Congo may not survive. A new war would probably mean the partition of the country, hundreds of thousands more dead and millions more refugees. Now is the time take the DDRRR agenda and the rest of the peace process forward.” *Disarmament, demobilisation, repatriation, reintegration, and resettlement of armed groups.