Democratic Republic of Congo: briefing

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International Relations

13 September 1999
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Meeting report

13 September 1999

The Deputy Minister Mr Aziz Pahad briefed the committee on the current situation in the DRC. The Lusaka Agreement has been signed by all parties and the first stage has now been set in motion. A Joint Military Commission (JMC) has been set up but is currently being hampered by disagreements within the main rebel group - the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD). Hopefully this will be resolved after a meeting on 14 September (tomorrow). A draft Committee Programme for September and October will be circulated this week.

Mr Pahad clarified the current situation in the DRC. He apologised for the absence of the Minister, Ms Nkosazana Zuma, who is at the OAU summit involved with resolving the DRC conflict. South Africa, working through the UN and OAU, is very involved in finding a long-term solution that will ensure stability in the DRC. This stability is strategically important to the Great Lakes region and to the continent as a whole. Only stability will allow the economic potential of the entire region to be recognised.

South Africa was involved in the DRC (then Zaire) during the end of the Mobutu era to ensure that the post-Mobutu period would be stable. Officials met with Kabila - then the leader of rebel forces - for this purpose. However arrangements made to promote democracy were derailed when the current war broke out. This was as a result of a rebellion led by the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD) and the Mouvement de Liberation Congolais (MLC). The war has since seen six African armies become involved (Rwanda and Uganda supporting the rebels, Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia and Chad (temporarily), supporting Kabila). On top of this an unknown number of non-statutory forces have become involved and these offer a real threat to the peace agreements. To add to the chaos fighting has occurred between Rwandan and Ugandan forces and within the RCD.

South Africa must continue to work through the UN and OAU to end the suffering of the Congolese people who still have to deal with the effects of the years of mismanagement under Mobutu. 1,700,000 people have been displaced. 300,000 people are refugees. Famine is increasingly widespread and human rights have been violated: genocide, ethnic cleansing, rape and destruction have all occurred. Thus all must be done to ensure that the agreed cease-fire actually occurs.

Mr Pahad briefly went over the events of the last through months. Within days of taking office Ms Zuma had spent three weeks in Lusaka to negotiate the current cease-fire. On 12 July the Lusaka Agreement was signed. This was a crucial step that signalled the following:
- Within 24 hours all air, land and sea attacks would end and military forces would disengage.
- The situation on the borders would be normalised. This would allow the delivery of humanitarian assistance, control the entry of outside forces and arms and seek to control the non-statutory foreign groups that will present a real security concern as they return to their native countries.
- Within one week a Joint Military Commission (JMC) would be established to create the situation where national dialogue leading to future political stability could occur. The JMC would be composed of two representatives from each belligerent party under a neutral chairperson appointed by the OAU. The JMC was mandated to (i) determine the limits of the warring groups at the time of the cease-fire, (ii) bring the warring parties to the negotiations table, (iii) disengage forces, (iv) investigate violations of the cease-fire, (v) work out a mechanism to disarm militia groups, (vi) monitor the withdrawal of foreign troops and the repatriation of foreign citizens, most obviously Rwandans and (vii) track down those who have committed crimes against humanity.
- An 'appropriate' force should then be deployed by the UN (working with OAU) to ensure the implementation of the agreement and decisions taken by the JMC.

Problems occurred because the agreement was not signed by the two rebel groups, the RCD and the MLC. Two factions had emerged within the RCD, one under Professor Ernest Wamba-dia-Wamba and a second under Dr Emile Ilunga. Debate over who was the leader of the RCD prevented a signatory on the agreement. The MLC then refused to sign until the RCD did so. Visits by foreign envoys, including Ms Zuma, eventually saw the MLC sign on 1 August. Their attempts to verify who was leader of the RCD failed so it was recommended that all 50 founding members of the RCD sign. This occurred on the 31 August. However problems remain and these have delayed the formation of the JMC which should have occurred within a week of the final signatory. The two factions of the RCD cannot agree on who should represent them on the JMC. Whilst the Wamba faction has the support of only eight founding members and the Ilunga faction is supported by 41, this majority has not led to a resolution of the issue. This deadlock will hopefully be broken by a meeting held tomorrow (Tuesday 14th). This will be hosted by Zambian President Chiluba in Lusaka. South Africa holds the view that the JMC (and those that represent the warring groups on it) should not be fundamental to the peace process. Rather focus should be on the second stage of the peace process, the actual negotiations that will form the basis of the DRC's future.

As the content of the Lusaka agreement is essentially agreed on, its first phase has been set in motion whilst the discussions of the RCD continue. Ninety Military Liaison Officers (MLOs) have been agreed on and deployed. They will work with the JMC to aid the implementation of the agreement. Their reports will form the basis of the second phase, the deployment of 800 UN peace observers. Only when their work is done will a third phase, the deployment of UN peace-keeping forces, be considered. Twenty five nations - 11 African - have contributed to the MLOs. South Africa offered eight, one was chosen and he left for Kenya on the 6 September. SANDF is currently training military observers for possible involvement in the military observer stage. Mr Pahad was clear that this involvement and any future involvement in peace-keeping must be in line with the South African White Paper on Defence. Further involvement also depends on what action the UN decides to take. It remains unclear what sort of peace-keeping force will be deployed.

Mr Pahad felt that good advances have been made but that the RCD leadership question must be resolved. The cease-fire is only the first step and more important steps must follow so that genuine national dialogue occurs in the DRC. This is the only way to create the conditions for free and fair elections. Plus it must be recognised that the entrance of some nations - Angola, Rwanda and Uganda especially - into the war partially reflected domestic security concerns. For them the cease-fire would create a new set of problems which must not be allowed to develop into continued conflict in the region. The cease-fire must also aim to bring about economic reconstruction especially to the DRC that had never been allowed to develop under the mismanagement of the Mobutu era. These tasks are expected to be difficult but this week Ms Zuma will once again go to the UN to ensure that progress continues.

Questions to Mr Pahad
Very little new ground was covered by the questions. The following points emerged:
- It is accepted that the deployment of troops to keep the peace in this volatile area is potentially very dangerous. The UN is still not committed to sending peace-keeping troops. It will not even be considered until the remaining Rwandan troops are removed from the DRC. The MLOs will recommend the UN on what forces are needed to control arms within the DRC. It is possible than now various groups are controlled within certain areas that they could police themselves.
- South Africa has no commitment to military involvement beyond their current offer of eight MLOs (only one is currently being used by the UN). Nothing else has been requested of South Africa by the UN. Mr Pahad assured committee members that if anything further was requested of South Africa it must be acceptable to the White Paper on Defence and must be fully discussed in Parliament. Ms Zuma had stated yesterday that it is more likely that South Africa will be requested to send logistical aid and not troops.
- Kabila's government has been accepted by the Lusaka Agreement as the legitimate government of the DRC and will remain in control until recommendations on the way forward are made. However as 60% of territory is under rebel control the rebels will effectively be able to administrate themselves.


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