Anvil Mining--Congo peace deal latest

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    UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

    July 24, 2002
    Posted to the web July 24, 2002

    This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations

    Following the "understanding" reached between delegations from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and neighbouring Rwanda on Monday, DRC President Joseph Kabila has indicated that he will sign the agreement, but there was no official word from Rwandan President Paul Kagame by Wednesday.

    Meanwhile, the Rwandan-backed Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD-Goma) armed opposition movement, while welcoming the accord, has warned that RCD-Goma must not be overlooked in the process.

    Five days of negotiations in Pretoria under the mediation of South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma resulted in an "understanding" being reached on the withdrawal of Rwandan forces from the DRC, and the disarming and disbanding of the ex-FAR (former Rwandan armed forces) and the Interahamwe (Rwandan Hutu militias) forces stationed in the DRC, a statement from Zuma's office said.

    A date for the signing of a final agreement has yet to be set.

    The talks, which began on 18 July and had been scheduled to last only one day, were a continuation of discussions held two weeks ago in Durban, South Africa, between Kabila and Kagame on the sidelines of the inaugural summit of the African Union. Central to those discussions - brokered by South African President Thabo Mbeki - was the proposal to create a security zone along the DRC/Rwanda border to prevent Hutu rebel incursions into Rwanda.

    Kabila "has seen the [document] drafted in Pretoria and he will sign it," the DRC government spokesman, Kikaya bin Karubi, was quoted by a Belgian daily newspaper, Le Soir, as saying on Tuesday.

    Although there has been still no official statement from Kagame's government on Wednesday, there is reason for hope. In this context, Rwanda's ambassador to South Africa, Joseph Karemera, told the BBC on Tuesday "if all parties comply to what they have agreed... we shall have no reason to be there [in the DRC] - not a single soldier".

    Zuma, too, remains optimistic, telling a news conference upon conclusion of the talks on Monday that "there is no reason why there should be any doubt that the principals should accept the agreement". He said the discussions had not been easy, and expressed satisfaction that the parties had been able to come to an understanding, the South African news agency, SAPA, reported. "We were able to reach the point where we are because there is a clear commitment on both sides to succeed and bring about a final settlement," SAPA quoted Zuma as saying.

    However, RCD-Goma cautioned that it must remain a part of the process. "The agreement between Congo and Rwanda is significant, but it addresses only the external dimensions of the Congolese crisis and does not resolve internal dimensions," the RCD-Goma leader, Adolphe Onusumba, was quoted as saying by the BBC. "To sort out the internal dimensions, Kinshasa must pursue a political agreement with all Congolese belligerents, opposition parties and civil society."

    RCD-Goma refused to sign the April agreement reached in Sun City, South Africa, among the Kinshasa government, the Ugandan-backed Mouvement de liberation du Congo (MLC) and a majority of political opposition and civil society organisations.

    However, Kabila gave assurances on Tuesday that RCD-Goma had nothing to fear. Speaking to Gabonese Africa No 1 radio, he said, "Has the time come to engage in talks with the RCD? I will say it has, after much reflection."

    Details of agreement

    While precise details of the agreement remained sketchy on Wednesday, Le Soir claimed some insight. According to the paper, the agreement specified that 10 days following the signing of the accord by Kabila and Kagame, Rwanda would present a detailed plan for the withdrawal of its troops from DRC territory. On the same date, the parties would also provide the UN and South Africa, in its capacity as mediator, with all information in their possession regarding the location and estimated numbers of ex-FAR and Interahamwe forces. The disarmament of the ex-FAR and Interahamwe would begin 90 days after the signing of the accord, and Rwanda would begin to withdraw its troops 45 days after that.

    "If Kabila and Kagame were to sign the accord on 1 August, the disarmament of ex-FAR and Interahamwe would begin on 1 November, and the withdrawal of Rwandan troops would begin on 15 December," Le Soir reported.

    The paper noted that although the Lusaka peace accord also contained a similar timeline, it had never been respected.

    The paper's information was in large part confirmed by Mustapha Niasse, the UN secretary-general's representative to the Great Lakes region, who told Radio France Internationale that the period for the withdrawal of Rwandan troops "will last for about 90 days... within which period the evacuation of troops should be effected and, at the same time, there should be the carrying out what we in MONUC [the UN peacekeeping mission in DRC] refer to as the DDRR [Disarmament, Demobilisation, Reintegration, Resettlement] and so on of all those forces in eastern DRC".

    Outstanding issues

    However, a number of outstanding issues remain. Foremost among these is who will supervise the disarmament and the agreement on the proposed buffer zone expected to protect Rwandan troops from further rebel attacks.

    "If the Rwandans were unable to do it, who will be?" said Richard Cornwell, an analyst of the Institute of Security Studies in Pretoria. He was referring to an estimated 20,000 ex-FAR and Interahamwe soldiers in the DRC. Speaking to another Belgian daily newspaper, La Libre Belgique, on Tuesday, he said that with great strides having been made towards peace in their own country, Angolan soldiers still stationed in the DRC could be called upon by Kinshasa to assist in the process.

    Certainly the DRC, the Joint Military Commission and MONUC would be integrally involved, and there could also be a role for South African forces and the African Union, according to regional observers - who also raised questions as to whether anyone had truly accurate information about the numbers and locations of ex-FAR and Interahamwe in the DRC.

    Security Council

    Meanwhile, in a wide-ranging statement on the situation in the DRC, the 15-member body reiterated the importance it attached to an all-inclusive agreement on the political transition in the country, taking into account the progress achieved at the inter-Congolese dialogue in Sun City, UN News reported.

    Turning to the ongoing conflict in the DRC, the Council reiterated its condemnation of the 14 May killings in Kisangani, saying that RCD-Goma was responsible for the massacres and would be held accountable for any extrajudicial executions. The statement demanded that the rebel group take the necessary steps to bring to justice the perpetrators and those who had ordered or been involved in the killings. The Council also said that Rwanda was duty-bound to use its "strong influence" to ensure that RCD-Goma complied with the Council's demands, as well as supplying guarantees that the rebel group would not kill any members of civil society or detainees held in Kisangani.

    The Council's statement also addressed the strengthening of troops in eastern DRC, voicing "deep concern" over the situation in South Kivu and rising tensions in the Ituri region, calling on all parties to exercise restraint.

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