DRC-good article re political sit.

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    DRC Foreign Troop Withdrawal No Guarantee for Peace

    The Daily News (Harare)

    October 11, 2002
    Posted to the web October 11, 2002

    IT would appear that the regional dimension to the five-year-long bloody war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), is being resolved, with the total withdrawal of Rwanda and the imminent withdrawal of Uganda and Zimbabwe. Is peace about to break out in the region?

    Anyone who wishes the region well will be hopeful that the disengagement will boost the momentum for a peaceful resolution of the outstanding issues. It will also create the conditions for a lasting internal settlement and guarantee security for the entire region.

    However one's optimism should not blind one to the numerous challenges that lie ahead.

    The end of armed intervention by other states may not necessarily mean an end to armed opposition inside the DRC. Various rebel groups that were allied to the countries pulling out, are now orphaned.

    While the majority of them may not have the military capacity to march on Kinshasa, they can seriously impede the peace process.

    All of them will try (and some could succeed) to occupy the vacuum being left by their patrons. The roving band of militias in the two Kivus and Eastern Congo are not going to disband immediately.

    They may even gain a new lease on their hellish life. The Mayi Mayi, for instance, have been active since the 1960s and have shown a capacity to wreak havoc, change allies and reinvent themselves as the situation changes. They could provide a template of dishonour for other rebels to copy.The various armed groups including Interahamwe, former Rwandese Army (ex-FAR), elements of the former Zairois army (Ex FAZ) and an assortment of defeated (but not disarmed) Uganda rebel groups including the Allied Democratic Force (ADF) and fighting groups against Burundi are also not going to disappear simply because Uganda and Rwanda have withdrawn.

    They may see the pullout as an opportunity to reorganise. They have all been allied to the DRC government since the war against Laurent Kabila by his former Rwandese and Ugandan allies.

    What all this means is that the focus on the regional dimension of the war must now be replaced by attention to the internal dimension of the tragedy.

    Under the Lusaka Accord (which is still the broad framework for the settlement), all of these rebel groups have to be disarmed.

    While President Joseph Kabila may be willing to do so, there are concerns about the capacity of the DRC to do this.

    There is also the fact that these factions have been used by the DRC government and it may be difficult to just say: "Thank you, you may go home now."

    The same is true for both Uganda and Rwanda in relation to the various groups or factions that they have spurned over the years.

    And this is where the commitment of the international community through the United Nations peacekeeping forces needs to be iron-cast. There are also personal alliances built on blood, gold, coal tan and other economic interests on all sides, that may subvert the express wishes of the states involved.

    The ease with which these states could withdraw should warn us that they can easily go back if necessary. How long will it take for an army that withdrew from Goma to Gisenyi to make the return journey?

    President Kabila of the DRC appears to be the winner of the politico-diplomatic war so far, but he will now be have to deliver on two vital areas that can guarantee lasting peace.

    Firstly, his government has to show full commitment to disarming the rebel groups of other countries that he inherited from his father and his allies. Secondly, the withdrawal should not be seen as a political carte blanche for him over the future of the country.

    The Lusaka Accord is very clear about the national components of the conflict - namely national dialogue with all armed and unarmed forces of the DRC, that would lead to a transitional government and the formation of a government based on the free will of the people of the DRC.

    Kabila has been lucky in many respects. The best selling point he has, ironically, is that he is not his father.

    He has shown a remarkable flexibility where his father had been belligerent. His youthfulness has also attracted sympathy and belief by many adversaries that he was more amenable to reason (ie control) than his father was.

    But above all, he seems to be getting value for money from his public relations consultants in Europe and America, who have smoothed his access to Brussels, Paris, London and Washington in a way that his father could not have managed. Finally, the strategic interest of the West in the mineral-rich country and Angola's capitulation to the same interests mean that the Western powers would like peace to prevail at all costs in both countries. The pressure for peace from the West is dictated by that interest and by the dangerous post-11 September 2001 simplification of the world into those against and those who support the United States. Washington wants all local conflicts resolved so that it can concentrate on the war against terrorism and it is exerting pressure for peace all over the world.

    But whatever the interests at stake, the peoples of the region are war-fatigued. The militarist solution to conflicts has exhausted itself.

    People are asking what they have gained in all the years of war.

    Apart from a few war-time entrepreneurs the war is a tragedy for the majority of the people.

    Most of the states cannot even declare victory, no matter how pyrrhic. They face a number of challenges: reintegrating their expanded armies; dealing with corrupt commanders who have become warlords; a worsening HI/Aids pandemic consequent to the conflict; and dislocations and forced movement.

    This combination of factors has created a space for a wider political settlement, both internally in the DRC and regionally.

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