Briefing by the Deputy Minister on the Inter-Congolese Dialogue and the Israeli/Palestine situation

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International Relations

09 May 2002
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Meeting report

9 May 2002

Mr P Jordan (ANC)

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Mr Aziz Pahad, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, briefed the Committee on the situations in the DRC and Israel/Palestine. South Africa had hosted the Inter-Congolese Dialogue (ICD) in Sun City in February/May of 2002. Talks had been halted because two of the five major groups in the talks had come to a unilateral coalition agreement just prior to the conclusion of the talks. Mr Pahad was confident that the only solution to the conflict would be for all the parties to reach an all-inclusive agreement. This was highly probable since they had reached agreement on 97% of the issues during the ICD and the only remaining issue related to the form the transitional government would take.

The situation in Israel/Palestine was one of grave concern. The suicide bombing could not be condoned but neither could Israel's disregard of human rights and UN Security Council resolutions. The only solution was for Israel to accept the right of the Palestinians to a state of their own. It was suggested that an international contingent, mandated to carry the process forward, be sent in.


Mr Pahad said that the two topics he was to discuss: the Congo and the Middle East, were of such significance that he doubted whether they could be fully covered in even two days of discussion.

Finding a solution in the Congo was of vital importance to South Africa and the Continent because of its location and tremendous resources. There was a need to look at the area in context. In 1960, Patrice Lumumba had become the leader of the Congo after independence. He was then removed from power within months. A UN resolution demanding his restoration was defeated by a vote of 53 to 24 and in 1961 Lumumba was assassinated. Since then, all attempts to build a State had failed and the area was noted for its lack of democracy and respect for human rights.

The Inter-Congolese Dialogue (ICD) was one of the first opportunities to allow the Congolese to find a solution for the Congolese. The ICD was born out of the Lusaka Agreement. The Lusaka Agreement had had three main components: a cease-fire, which included the disengagement of war and the withdrawal of troops, the disarmament of armed troops who were in the Congo and the ICD, negotiations by the Congolese without interference by any other group. By and large, the cease-fire had held. Disarmament had not happened as speedily as had been wanted. One of the reasons was a fundamental principle of the Rwandese that they would not disarm until their security had been guaranteed.

In respect of the ICD, it had taken nearly two years since the conclusion of the Lusaka Agreement to prepare the ground for an all-inclusive ICD. In May 2001, fundamental principles of the ICD had been declared and paved the way for the next stage of the ICD. Article seven agreed that consensus would be the means of agreement. This had led to a meeting in Gabarone where contentious issues had been discussed together with the technicalities of the dialogue. Since the concerned parties had had no prior experience in negotiations or talks, the discussion on the details had taken longer but consensus was eventually reached. They had agreed that the first meeting would take place in October in Addis Ababa. At the meeting in Addis Ababa, the parties were unable to agree on the agenda and the rules of procedure for the talks. After a week, it was agreed that that first session would have to be adjourned.

It was then agreed that South Africa would host the ICD. South Africa felt that this was necessary and in order to facilitate the dialogue, agreed to cover all of its internal costs. Talks convened in Sun City on the 25 February. Participation in the talks had increased to 374 participants as it was felt that there was a need to increase the size of the delegation. The opening ceremony had had to be postponed because one of the armed groups had refused to appear and because the facilitator allowed twenty extra delegates of one of the groups. A compromise had been reached after a further ten days. It was only in March that agreement had been reached on the number of delegates and the five different commissions that were to be set up. The idea had been that the five commissions would separately deliberate on their respective issues and would then convene in a plenary session.

South Africa did not play a direct role in the negotiations, except in a facilitating role. The Congolese government then decided to withdraw from the commissions because their forces in eastern Congo had been attacked. They then agreed to return to talks and agreement was reached on some issues. Two issues still unresolved were the formation of the new army and the transitional political institution. Discussion on these issues went beyond the allocated 45 days. The facilitator then felt that South Africa should become directly involved to help break the deadlock. President Mbeki then cancelled his appointments and spent seven days at Sun City and engaged in extensive talks with each of the parties to understand what they wanted from the transitional authority.

The President hoped for the parties to reach agreement in a consensual way. He felt that, in essence, all parties agreed on what they wanted as regarded the different issues. At the same time, it was apparent that a debate existed among the main players as to who would hold the major positions. The President then put forward the "Mbeki plan" for the different parties to look at. While this discussion was taking place on the form the transitional government was going to take, agreement was reached on the army issue.

At this point, the Congolese government and one of the other parties to the dialogue, the MLC, announced that they had formed a separate agreement and that the ICD was over and welcomed the other parties to join their coalition. The excluded parties would not agree to this and eventually the Congolese government made an agreement with some of the other parties. The remaining groups then formed their own coalition and the effect was that the country was split into two parts. South Africa believed that if this was allowed to continue it could only lead to a fresh round of conflicts. However, this was not a matter that required South Africa's involvement. The facilitator was of the opinion that the agreement reached between the different parties was outside of the agreement reached in terms of the Lusaka Agreement. The other commissions had reached agreement on 37 other issues. The only outstanding issue revolved around who would run the transitional authority. South Africa was of the opinion that unless there was an all-inclusive agreement involving everybody, any other agreement would be short-lived. On 2 May, the UN Security Council asked all the parties to meet and reach a decision quickly and indicated that the agreement should be an all-inclusive one

The facilitator wanted then to continue the dialogue with a reduced number of delegates. On that day, 24 Congolese representatives were arriving in Cape Town to begin an ICD that would start the process needed to reach an all-inclusive agreement. South Africa would help facilitate the process as it was in their best interest to do so. The government was in touch with all the concerned parties, including the UN and other interested States. It was hoped that the international community would support the need for an all-inclusive agreement. As the matter stood, agreement had been reached on 97% of contentious issues and it was only a small, fundamentally important part that was left open.


The Chair remarked that the situation was a complex one. He asked not just for questions, but contributions as well from the Committee.

Mr Mulder (FF) commented that it seems that the Congolese were looking for a power-sharing solution. His opinion was that this was only a temporary solution. He asked if there were any indications of the country moving towards unity.

Mr Eglin (DP) asked what the main proposals of the Mbeki plan were, and to what extent Rwanda and Angola were brought on board.

Mr Geldenhuys (NNP) was of the opinion that the money spent was for a worthwhile cause. He asked if there was still foreign military presence, particularly with regard to Zimbabwe, in the Congo.

Mr Pahad answered the question on the main elements by explaining that in terms of the plan, Joseph Kabile would continue to act as president. In the phase leading up to the elections, mechanisms would be established to see that elections would be fair and that the playing fields would be open to all. Detailed recommendations were made in this regard and the Committee were welcome to obtain a copy. Discussions had been held on the question of federalism versus non-federalism and the commissions had gone a long way towards finding different modules for what they thought would work.

On the question relating to Rwanda and Uganda, he identified the major players, outside of the internal players, as Zimbabwe, Angola, Rwanda and Uganda. Namibia had been involved as well but had withdrawn their troops. Uganda had also withdrawn their troops to quite a far position. The three remaining foreign troops - those belonging to Rwanda, Uganda and Zimbabwe - had maintained their positions but there was no real break of the cease-fire. He said that it was difficult to move troops without an indication that the political process was moving along. Attempts were being made to convince Rwanda to move back to their own borders and the government was generally in touch with them. They were also in touch with the EU, in particular Belgium, France and the UK. He expounded that the EU takes a consensus position on matters of foreign policy so that it reflected the position of all member States. The US was also involved and has been active in this regard. All countries have been active in the Sun City talks.

Ms Hajaij (ANC) inquired as to what reasons had been given by the Congolese government and the MCL for having reached a unilateral decision and in the proposed new round of talks, what were the chances for concrete action for unity in the DRC.

Mr Pahad responded that no reasons had been given for the unilateral decision, unless such reasons had been given to the facilitator. He estimated the chances for an agreement to be reached to be 90% or more. He felt that if interest was shown from the continent as a whole, the leaders in the DRC would reach up and find a solution in the interests of everybody. The proposal was open to change and adjustment to accommodate everybody's interests. He was optimistic although he remarked that working together was a new concept for the region.

A Member questioned the presence of foreign troops in the area as he felt that they compounded the issue. In particular, he questioned the continuing presence of Angola given the apparent normalisation within that country and wondered why Zimbabwe still had troops in the area.

Ms Mahomed (ANC) asked for comment on how South Africa was going to facilitate the pre-election process if possible. She inquired if civil society in the DRC was at ease with the process and what the socio-economic impact was.

Mr Pahad responded that the Angolans had been involved because the Congo had always been regarded as a base for subversion. Unita had a strong base there so the Angolans had always tried to overthrow Mabuto and supported Kabile. They had largely moved out of occupied territories, aside from one area where they had agreed to do so if the UN stepped in. Zimbabwe had moved in to protect the Kabile government against any other coup.
Regarding the election process, he said that South Africa had no locus standi to facilitate in the process. It was something that the Congolese were left to request if they wished. However, as Chair of the OAU, South Africa might be able to play a facilitating role.

On the socio-economic conditions he said that the situation was very bad. Millions of people were displaced and the economy was not improving because of uncertainty in the area. Mining companies especially were unable to continue their operations. Inflation was also very high. The commission on economics had developed a good analysis but this could not be proceeded with unless agreement had been reached on the political process.


Mr Pahad stated that the shocking news of the latest suicide bombing must be condemned. He said that the government held a deep conviction that the cycle of attack and counter-attack must be stopped. The solution was for an independent Palestinian State, and his opinion was that the violence would not stop until this had taken shape. Israeli logic of seeking out terrorism failed to take into account the fact that Palestinians would not stop the violence because they were displaced. The international community generally accepted the right of the Palestinians to their own State.

South Africa could not isolate itself from the danger in the Middle East. The danger was becoming more realistic. The last few weeks had seen massive incursions on Palestinian territory coupled with massive casualties and the destruction of most of the infrastructure. Reports had to be faced of massacres in Jenin and other areas. He said that he would have to agree with Kofi Annan that self-defence justifies the attacks, but reports of the envoys were deeply disturbing and indicative of a new situation. The siege of Arafat had ended but it was unacceptable that a chosen leader should have to be put under siege. Recent events around the Church of the Nativity were also unacceptable. Some compromise is being found but the situation was still one of grave concern.

Concern was shown over Israel's disregard of numerous UN Security Council Resolutions calling on it o withdraw for humanitarian reasons, and thereby undermining the basis of multi-lateralism and making the world much more dangerous. An emergency UN session had been objected to only by the US and Israel, with 52 abstentions. This indicated that the issue was creating a lot of controversy within the US structure.

The question that must be asked centres on what the way forward should be and how to support it. The belief was that both sides needed to find the way forward that excluded military action. He did not feel that a cease-fire would help much. Rather, it was important to strengthen the peace camps on both sides and get them to understand that the concepts elaborated by Arafat and Rabin in their "Peace of the Brave" must be enforced. This included the understanding that Palestine was its own State. The concept was important for the interests of all sides. At every meeting the Palestinians had been committed to a two-stage plan that would have allowed everybody to enter talks without preconditions but the Israelis had insisted on preconditions, which had frustrated the process from starting.

The Secretary-General had now called for a multi-national "Force of the Willing" to carry out its robust mandate. This was a movement to show that there is an internal force with a strong mandate to facilitate the process forward. The government was waiting to receive Sharon's report on terrorism but could not believe that it would facilitate the process forward. Sharon's commitment to defeat Arafat would not succeed. The two sides must rise above considering each the other's enemy. The situation was one of total insecurity and was very bad. Every house burned created the potential for another two suicide bombers. He condemned suicide bombers and felt that the need did not justify the ends and hoped that they conditions would be created for the process to proceed.


Mr Ramgobin (ANC) cautioned against allowing the situation in the Middle East to escalate and felt that there was a need to take a stand against the psychological bombers who covertly or overtly supported Israel. He suggested a proactive approach to be taken by the Committee to highlight to the world the situation in the Middle East.

Mr Geldenhuys said that he was supportive of the Arab League Plan and felt that it was the first time that a plan was on the table which guaranteed the right of Israel to a State and the withdrawal of its troops to its pre-1960's borders. He asked if the Arabs had accepted the possibility of the withdrawal not happening.

Ms Mahomed asked Mr Pahad to comment on NAM resolutions pertaining to the Israel/Palestine situation.

Mr Mulder suggested that the most logical solution would be to combine the Arab solution with the US solution so that the US could put pressure on Israel and the Arabs could pressurise the Palestinians.

Mr Madasa (ACDP) emphasised his opinion that he human rights violations taking place in the region could not be defended.

Mr Pahad responded that the comments made were mostly statements. He said that NAM had mandated the Minister to authorise a delegation of NAM Ministers to visit Israel.
On the issue of guaranteeing Israel's borders, he said that all the Arab States had signed the Arab Agreement guaranteeing the security of its borders. Additionally, nobody in the area had the capacity or the inclination to go into full-scale war. Rather, it was more important to guarantee the borders of Palestine, by which the security of all the States in the region would be guaranteed. Ultimately, when people have been subjected to what the Palestinians had been and then seen the peace collapse, they would naturally react by trying to stop the attack and protect what little they had.

The meeting was adjourned.


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