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This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

Congo-Kinshasa: Peace Process Implementation

AFRICA ACTION
Africa Policy E-Journal
October 17, 2003 (031017)

Congo-Kinshasa: Peace Process Implementation
(Reposted from sources cited below)

This posting contains several interviews and short reports on implementation of the peace process in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The interviews are with Ituri Administration Leader Petronille Vaweka and with William Swing, special representative of the UN Secretary-General. Ms. Vaweka was a leader of the peace and human rights organization Fondation Paix Durable before being elected to head the interim administration in Ituri. Both interviews and news reports indicate progress but major challenges in turning the peace agreement into an effective mechanism for security for civilians, particularly in the eastern Congo.

All the documents in this posting come from the UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) or the United Nations in New York. Material from IRIN is available at http://www.irinnews.org. It may be redistributed with attribution and the disclaimer that it "may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies." UN press releases are available at http://www.un.org/News

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IRIN Interview With Ituri Administration Leader Petronille Vaweka

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

September 17, 2003

Brussels

Petronille Vaweka is the president of the interim administration of the embattled Ituri District, Orientale Province of northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a natural resource-rich region that has been devastated by several years of economically driven ethnic strife that has resulted in the death of some 50,000 people and the displacement of another 500,000 since August 1998, when the latest war in the Congo erupted.

Fighting between primarily Hema and Lendu militias and allied ethnic groups has continued despite the installation on 30 June of a two-year transitional government on and the recent formation of a united national army, ostensibly bringing an end to over four years of war.

Vaweka has also been chosen to serve as a deputy from her province to the National Assembly, part of the two-year national transition government leading to democratic elections.

IRIN spoke to Vaweka on Friday in Brussels, Belgium, during a European tour organised by Pax Christi International, an international Catholic movement for peace. Her visit came as the EU-led interim peace enforcement mission, "Artemis", had handed over responsibility for security of Bunia, the main town of Ituri, to the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC, known as MONUC. Unlike "Artemis", whose operational jurisdiction was restricted to Bunia, MONUC now faces the challenge of ensuring peace throughout the Ituri region.

IRIN: How would you evaluate the "Artemis" operation - did it bring stability to Bunia?

Vaweka: The "Artemis" mission was necessary, as it came at a critical juncture: people were beginning to lose hope, and MONUC did not have a sufficiently strong mandate. Armed groups were beginning to reinforce themselves, and it was thanks to "Artemis" that we were able to avoid the worst from happening. Since the fighting of May and June 2003, the town of Bunia was emptied of its inhabitants. Many were able to return during the "Artemis" operation, and if they were unable to return to their homes, they were at least able to stay in temporary shelters in the town.

IRIN: Now that "Artemis" has completed its mission, is there a risk of the previous conflict erupting once again?

Vaweka: The mission of "Artemis" was not to deploy into the interior of Ituri, but rather to secure and disarm the town of Bunia. The MONUC force that has recently arrived will have an immense task, as it will have to build on what "Artemis" has accomplished in order to deploy its troops into the interior of Ituri.

However, for it to be successful, three conditions will have to be met: maintain a strategy in line with its mandate under Chapter Seven of the UN Charter [which authorises the use of force], provide the number of soldiers that have been promised, and adhere to the deployment plan. But I am already encouraged by the fact that "Artemis" has shown the way, and MONUC has shown itself to be willing to dialogue with the people of Ituri.

IRIN: What is the future of the Ituri Pacification Commission (IPC) given the recent installation of the two-year national transitional government in Kinshasa?

Vaweka: The current Ituri administration is an intermediate one. It will be necessary in the near future that the national transitional government extend its authority in a more visible manner throughout Ituri. Let us say that the IPC will need a few more months to prepare people for living together peacefully, which is the IPC's main role. Until now, the IPC has not been able to work effectively because of the armed groups.

IRIN: What will become of these armed groups?

Vaweka: "Artemis" engaged these militias in a political dialogue, which led to certain of them agreeing to cantonment until they could be demobilised. Add to that the armed groups consultation commission ["la commission de concertation des groupes armes", which is part of the IPC], through which the [militia] leaders can discuss their points of view, and the recent meeting [among the militias] that was held in Kinshasa, I am convinced that the [militia] leaders are beginning to commit themselves to peace. Although I am aware that certain militias have not yet disarmed and that arms continue to arrive [in Ituri].

IRIN: Until their disarmament and demobilisation, what will prevent them from carrying out attacks?

Vaweka: Since the [Ituri] assembly was put in place in April 2003, we have been asking for technical and other support for the cantonment of these groups, but with no response yet, other than promises. MONUC said that it was not mandated to handle this. Meanwhile, the situation has gotten worse and armed groups have transformed themselves into groups of bandits who pillage to sustain themselves and who form pockets of resistance all over the place. That shows just how important a demobilisation and reinsertion programme is. In three months, with qualified technical experts, we could manage to resolve the situation. We hope that the [national] transitional government will assume responsibility for this programme, and the support of international organisations would be appreciated.

IRIN: How about the humanitarian situation at present - is the response adequate?

Vaweka: You could mobilise all the humanitarian means at your disposal, but that would not resolve the underlying problem of Ituri, given the number of displaced persons and the total destruction of the economy. You can care for the displaced from week to week, but that will never be enough. On the other hand, humanitarian agencies could try to return the displaced people to their homes, in places such as Butembo, Beni, Kanyabayonga, and from [neighbouring] Uganda.

However, in order to accomplish this, security must be restored so that people can return to their homes and begin to cultivate crops. Furthermore, the humanitarian programme must be better thought-out: mafias are organising themselves in the displaced camps - meal tickets are being sold, and food supplies are being stockpiled, all to the detriment of the truly vulnerable people who can no longer access this aid.

IRIN: What does the future hold for you?

Vaweka: Do I really have a say in the matter? I entered politics without having wanted to, when the people of Ituri made me the head of their assembly. Having just begun that job, I was named a deputy at the national level. My greatest concern is that my political involvement will serve to bring peace to Ituri. When that has been achieved, I think I will return to working in the humanitarian NGO sector. My true "raison d'etre" is to help the most vulnerable and all those who are suffering.


MONUC's Swing Hails New Phase of Improved Relations

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

October 3, 2003

Nairobi

The UN Secretary-General's special representative for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), William Swing, has hailed a new phase of improved relations among the countries in the Great Lakes region of Africa, following last week's high-level meeting convened by Kofi Annan to discuss the ongoing peace process in the Congo, the UN Department of Public Information reported.

Speaking at a news conference in New York on Wednesday, Swing said a declaration issued from Thursday's meeting among representatives from the DRC, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda had introduced "a phase in which we look forward to improving the neighbourhood, to improving good neighbourly relations" in the Great Lakes region.

He said the declaration was a substantial step forward in addressing the necessary confidence-building measures to develop a better understanding in the region, and that it had set the tone for an international conference being planned for the coming year to discuss peace, stability, development, and democracy in the region.

He said the UN Mission in the DRC, known as MONUC, had increased its multinational peacekeeping force from 8,700 to 10,800 troops, which would be split almost equally between Ituri District and the Kivu Provinces of the east, where much of the fighting had taken place, and where a good deal of violence was still occurring. He said the west, north, and central parts of the country were calm, and that MONUC had removed most of its troops from these areas.

Swing said that the country's thousands of child soldiers were an ongoing concern for MONUC, and that the mission was dealing with the problem through its human rights and demobilisation programme, and via child protection officers posted throughout the country.

Asked about the sincerity of Congolese parties to the country's peace process, Swing said he had seen a great deal of improvement in Kinshasa, the capital, compared to two years ago when the country was at war, and when he was the US ambassador.

"Today, all those who were fighting are now in the same government," he said.

He added that the 500-member National Assembly and the 120-member Senate were functioning, and a council of ministers was meeting every week. Moreover, the Congolese flag was flying throughout the country, a single national currency was circulating, and the Congo River system had been reopened to commercial traffic.


IRIN Interview With MONUC Chief On Latest Ituri Massacre

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

October 8, 2003

Kinshasa

William Swing, the UN Secretary-General's special representative to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and head of the UN peacekeeping mission in the country, known as MONUC, spoke to IRIN on Wednesday on the most recent massacre in the troubled northeastern district of Ituri.

This time the killings took place in Katshele, 15 km southeast of Bule, which is about 60 km northeast of Bunia, the main town of Ituri. The latest count indicated that at least 65 people, primarily women and children, had been killed. [See earlier IRIN story, "At least 55 killed in Katshele, Ituri District" at http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=37042]

At least 50,000 people have died and 500,000 have been displaced in Ituri since the most recent war in the country erupted in August 1998, due in large part to economically-motivated ethnic-based violence.

Swing explained what measures the mission was taking to avoid further massacres in a region where the UN had already deployed some 3,300 peacekeeping soldiers.

IRIN: What is MONUC doing to shed light on the circumstances of this massacre?

Swing: First of all, we are continuing the work of Artemis [the EU-led peace-enforcement mission that was deployed from June to September], but with a mandate that covers not only Bunia, but also the entire District of Ituri, which is more or less the size of Sierra Leone, or Liberia. We are currently carrying out helicopter sorties every day. We have greatly increased our helicopter forces. We are now in the process of establishing three or four bases across Ituri for a more permanent deployment.

IRIN: When and where will these forces be deployed, other than Bunia?

Swing: No later then next week. I cannot give you the names of the villages, but they will be strategically located so that we can better control the movements of armed groups.

IRIN: This latest massacre has taken place despite the reinforced presence of 3,318 UN peacekeeping soldiers in Bunia. What measures is MONUC taking to ensure that this does not happen again?

Swing: As part of the helicopter sorties we have conducted during the past month, the locality of Katshele, where the massacre took place, was among the places being monitored. Unfortunately, we cannot be everywhere at all times, as was the case for Katshele on that particular day. But we arrived there only a few hours after receiving news [of the massacre]. We were on the spot with a multidisciplinary team of soldiers and humanitarian actors. We went back there the following day. And we are now continuing our investigation, not only in Katshele, but in the villages surrounding Katshele from where the people who committed these crimes had come.

IRIN: Has your inquiry yielded any information on who was responsible for this latest massacre?

Swing: Yes, we have ideas. We believe it involved ethnic-based elements. But I think it is better that the investigation be completed before speaking publicly on this.


African Leaders Pledge Non-Interference At Talks Called By Annan

United Nations (New York)

September 25, 2003

Representatives of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and three neighbouring countries today agreed to refrain from interference in each other's affairs, and to prevent arms shipments to warring groups in the eastern areas of the country following a meeting called by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

According to a communique issued after the high-level ad hoc meeting, the DRC, Burundi, Uganda and Rwanda pledged to "respect the sovereignty, territorial integrity and the political independence of one another" and "refrain from interfering directly or indirectly in one another's internal affairs."

The countries also promised to "refrain from any action aimed at the partial or total disruption of the stability, national unity and territorial integrity of one another," as well as "prevent, in this regard, the direct or indirect support of arms and support to armed groups operating in the eastern part of the DRC."

The statement was agreed to by the Presidents of Burundi and the DRC, the Prime Minister of Rwanda, and the Second Deputy Prime Minister of Uganda, in the presence of the President of Mozambique, the current Chairperson of the African Union, and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Angola, South Africa and Tanzania.

A spokesman for Mr. Annan said, "The Secretary-General is gratified at the successful conclusion of the high-level meeting."

In the text of his remarks to the closed-door meeting issued earlier Thursday, the Secretary-General lauded progress in the DRC, but warned more had to be accomplished.

Citing the "substantial progress that has been made in the past year," including the signing of peace agreements between warring parties, and the establishment of a transitional government in Kinshasa, Mr. Annan said: "Much has been achieved. But the job is not done. It is not even close to done. Enormous challenges lie ahead."

Mr. Annan said: "In meeting those challenges, I hope you will be guided by certain common principles. There should be no overt or covert interference in each other's affairs. All States in the region must respect one another's sovereignty. All support for armed groups must end. There must be no illegal exploitation of the natural resources of the DRC. Transparent, good-neighbourly relations must be established. There must be respect for civilians and for the human rights of all citizens."

The Secretary-General stressed that the UN team in the area, and the new transitional government need the support and backing of all the countries represented in the meeting. "Real peace also requires all outsiders to cut off support to armed groups and terminate the flow of weapons," he added.

"It is far too early to declare success," he said. "A lot more needs to happen before lasting peace is secured."


Focus On the Challenge UN Troops Face in Ituri District

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

September 17, 2003

[Excerpts only: For full text see
http://www.irinnews.org/print.asp?ReportID=36639]

Even though the new Bangladeshi troops of the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) stepped onto Bunia's dusty airport in early September with apparent breezy confidence, they were under no illusion of the difficult task ahead.

"This is going to be a challenge," Maj. Jamil Rashid, MONUC's security chief at Bunia National Airport told IRIN last Tuesday, "The airfield was attacked in May when UN forces were here. And there are still pockets of lawlessness all around the town. We're going to have to be vigilant." ...

Militias still active

[Most worrying], Ituri residents said, was the violence being perpetuated by the region's still-active small militia groups. Outright fighting between groups may have died down, but many Iturians think militia activity has simply degenerated into low-level banditry, including 'hit and run' attacks on civilians.

"You can stay on the main street here but you wander out by less than half a kilometre, they are there. They are hiding in the bush, ambushing people and dragging them off to be killed," said Lolo Bosuo, a former owner of a Bunia Internet cafe recently looted by an armed gang.

A question of strategy

MONUC officials are pondering the methods they need to adopt to stop these acts of lawlessness given their sporadic nature and the finite resources at the disposal of the UN troops. With only 4,500 of them expected to police a district with 4.2 million people, the task appears daunting. .,.

Some MONUC officials point out that one of the decisions UN peacekeepers may have to make is to choose when to act tough, "to show they mean business". A MONUC demobilisation officer based in North Kivu, William Deng Deng, told IRIN in Bunia on 9 September that if UN soldiers flexed their muscles to show that they're were under Chapter 7 the tactic would work.

"I'm convinced the successes we've had in Beni and Butembo are down to our South African contingent," he said. "Those guys are tough on the armed groups. They're not afraid to venture right out into the bush to track down those militias and force them to disarm or else."

Yet not all MONUC officials are so confident that their access to military firepower would make the mission easy.

"You can have a Chapter 7 mandate but actually using it in a Chapter 7 situation is a difficult business," Philippe de Bard, the chief officer of political affairs for the MONUC operation, said. "As a peacekeeper, the decision to whether or not to kill is always a difficult one. Likewise, having attack helicopters is one thing; using them effectively in a place like Ituri is something else." ...

Chances of success

Whether or not MONUC will success, only time will tell. But there are encouraging signs that at least some of Ituri's former combatants are now willing to renounce violence and return to civilian life.

"Everyday a lot of people come to us voluntarily to surrender their guns," Nizar told IRIN in Bunia "We have a big fire everyday to destroy all the weapons we have recovered".

Meanwhile, Ituri's peacekeepers say they are confident they are up to the job. "We're very happy to be in Ituri," Mahmud Hussain, operations chief for the Bangladeshi contingent, said. "I'm hoping that when we're finished, things will be very different around here."

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Date distributed (ymd): 031017
Region: Central Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +security/peace+


The Africa Policy E-Journal is a free information service provided by Africa Action, including both original commentary and reposted documents. Africa Action provides this information and analysis in order to promote U.S. and international policies toward Africa that advance economic, political and social justice and the full spectrum of human rights.

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