Africa, Headlines | Analysis

POLITICS: Little To Suggest The Congolese Peace Accord Will Hold

Analysis Chris Simpson

KIGALI, Sep 6 1999 (IPS) - There may now be a cease-fire in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), but there has been little in the past few days to suggest the peace agreement signed in Lusaka is built to last.

Having spent weeks trying to secure rebel signatures on the accord it brokered back in July, the Zambian government of Frederick Chiluba has taken the first tentative steps towards implementation.

The Lusaka timetable is extremely ambitious. An immediate end to hostilities is meant to be followed by the “disengagement” of competing armies within a fortnight. A full, ground-breaking national political dialogue is meant to start within 45 days of the peace, with a consensus on the DRC’s future hopefully reached within six weeks.

After 120 days, UN peacekeepers are meant to arrive, the blue helmets consolidating the work already done by UN observers. Foreign armies should have all abandoned the DRC within six months of Lusaka.

Prior to that, groups like the Rwandan Interahamwe militias, the Ugandan Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels and the Congolese Mai Mai militias, all outside the Lusaka agreement, are supposed to have been disarmed and taken out of the picture.

The key peacemaking agencies, at least in the initial stages, are the Joint Military Commission (JMC) and Political Committee, both drawn mainly from the former protagonists. They will be made up of the DRC, Angola, Namibia, and Zimbabwe who back the beleaguered Congolese President Laurent-Desire Kabila, and Rwanda and Uganda, along with their Congolese rebel allies.

The JMC, whose brief is to supervise the cease-fire, has a neutral chairman in Algerian General Rachid Lallali.

But there have already been fierce rows over its composition, with the Goma wing of the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD), backed by Rwanda, trying to block attempts by RCD Kisangani, which enjoys Uganda’s support, to secure equal representation.

According to the Ugandan press, controversial Ugandan Chief of Staff Brigadier James Kazini, is one of the Ugandan representatives, a nomination likely to be viewed with suspicion in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, where Kazini is held largely responsible for last month’s clashes in Kisangani between Rwandan and Ugandan troops.

The Political Committee is being chaired by Ugandan Foreign Minister Amama Mbabazi, whose neutrality will also be firmly scrutinised by the Rwandans.

Tensions between Kigali and Kampala are meant to have eased over the past three weeks following the emergency summit between Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Rwandan Vice-President Paul Kagame at Mweya, Uganda, three weeks ago.

But while both armies appear to have scaled down their operations in Kisangani, with the Ugandans reportedly ready for a full-scale withdrawal, top-level relations remain strained.

In a long resume of Rwanda’s military involvement in the DRC, Kagame told Rwanda’s National Assembly last week how the clashes had broken out, blaming Ugandan arrogance and the political opportunism of Kampala-backed rebel leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba.

Kagame described the confrontation, in which more than 200 people were killed, as “terrible” and “unthinkable”.

He told IPS later that he was not ready yet to assign blame, awaiting the findings of a joint Ugandan-Rwandan investigation team sent to Kisangani. “But I have my own views on what happened”, he said.

Museveni gave his own briefings to Ugandan legislators in a closed meeting, reportedly denouncing Rwanda’s actions in the strongest possible terms, questioning Kagame’s honesty and integrity, and warning that any future Rwandan provocation would be met with “double-barrelled” lightning.

“He is now saying he was misquoted”, a Rwandan official commented. “But then again, he always says that”.

Ironically, Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC) leader Jean- Pierre Bemba, normally ready with news of fresh victories and fierce diatribes against Kabila, has had the least to say.

Speaking to IPS by satellite-link, Bemba, who is also backed by Uganda, said it was too early to say whether the peace would hold, “but for the time things are very quiet, with no fighting near us”.

RCD Goma remains adamant that Wamba dia Wamba and his supporters can play no role in the peace. Wamba’s decision to leave Lusaka for Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, gave RCD leader Ilunga fresh ammunition.

Despite protestations from Wamba’s camp that the professor was simply going to Zimbabwe to speak to the Africa Association of Political Science, the visit was seen by Wamba’s opponents as untimely and provocative.

While the rebel rivalries continue, so too does the propaganda battle between Goma and Kinshasa, the capital of the DRC. Congolese President Kabila has been accused by rebels of drafting in Mai Mai commanders in his latest military reshuffle, including new army chief Sylvestre Luecha.

An RCD spokesman in Goma warned: “such appointments are completely unacceptable”. Pointing out the Mai Mai were still fighting in North and South Kivu and were not signatories to any peace agreement, he accused Kabila of not being serious about the peace agreement.

“The Mai Mai fight alongside the rebels from Burundi and the Interahamwe from Rwanda, Kabila cannot start using them to lead his army”, he said.

The conflict in the DRC erupted in August last year, after Kabila ordered the remaining Rwandan troops and military instructors who helped him to overthrow the late dictator Mobutu Sese Seko in May 1997, out of the country.

Since then the conflict has sucked in six African countries.

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