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Note: 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 Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.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): Civil Society Statement

Congo (Kinshasa): Civil Society Statement
Date distributed (ymd): 970705
Document reposted by APIC


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Final Declaration of the Meeting of the Civil Society of the Democratic Republic of Congo

Note: Unofficial translation from French by APIC. For more information or to obtain the original French document please contact one of the three sponsoring organizations:

Conseil National des Organisations
non-Gouvernmentales de Developpement
2/A3 Avenue Shaba
Kinshasa-Gombe, Rep. Democratique du Congo
Tel: 243-12-26707
Fax: 243-12-34441
Contact: Baudouin Hamuli

Synergies Africa
5, rte. des Morillons
B.P. 2100
1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland
Tel: 41 22 788 85 86
Fax: 41 22 788 85 90
Contacts: Hassan Ba, Germain Malu

International Human Rights Law Group
1601 Connecticut Ave., NW #700
Washington, DC 20009
Tel: 202-232-8500
Fax: 202-232-6731
Contacts: Marie-Elena John Smith, Pascal Kambale

The Civil Society of the Democratic Republic of Congo, with the support of CNONGD (National Council of Non-Governmental Development Organizations, Synergies Africa and the International Human Rights Law Group, met from June 16-20 at the Nganda Center on the theme of the "Reconstruction and Democratization of the Congo."

These meetings are taking place at a particularly important historical moment for the Congolese people and they are developing in a spirit of tolerance, openness, dialogue and a constructiveness. Civil society first concentrated on a analysis of the current situation and has formulated general and specific recommendations.

I. Analysis

I.1. The Legacy of the Years of Dictatorship

The catastrophic current situation that the Congolese people are living is the legacy of thirty-two years of dictatorship and pillage of the nation's resources and the absence of a state of law. The consequences of this sad situation are felt at all levels and in all sectors of activity of national life:

  • the decay or non-existence of basic public infrastructure (roads, bridges, public buildings, factories, etc.)
  • disarticulation of the economic and financial system
  • absence of policies or infrastructures of communication, training, environmental protection and promotion of health and of social well-being of women and men
  • corruption and deficiencies of administration
  • systematic violation of human rights leading to generalized insecurity among the population
  • social insecurity for all strata of the population (unemployment)
  • exacerbation of inter-ethnic tensions by political manipulation and the existence of deceptive and incoherent legislation

I.2 The war and the transition

The war that our country lived through was experienced at first by the people as liberation and was met with great enthusiasm. Unhappily it has also been accompanied by great suffering for the people (notably for refugees and the displaced).

Today Congolese feel two contradictory sentiments with respect to this situation: hope and fear. The notes of hope concern the departure or the fall of the dictatorial regime, which constitutes a window of opportunity for the changes so long awaited; they also concern the improvement of security in certain cases, for example in the immigration service.

Nevertheless, civil society has lifted up many fears and worries with respect to safeguarding national and social peace, safeguarding fundamental freedoms and finally safeguarding the democratic process.

Concerning national and social peace, the following concerns are preeminent:

  • tense political climate linked to the absence of dialogue among the different forces, the continuation if not aggravation of inter-ethnic antagonism, the flow of arms, nonsettlement of the refugee question
  • the question of the army remains a major worry, notably with respect to problems of discipline, break-up of the military command, absence of clarification of the relationship between the Alliance and the State.
  • and social peace could be threatened if wages continue not to be paid.

With respect to basic freedoms, growing violations of personal rights (for example, summary and extra-judicial execution) and of basic freedoms of association, opinion and expression, have been noted.

Concerning the democratic process, there is concern about the lack of a clear separation between the army on the one hand and justice and police on the other, as well as the absence of a constitutional framework that could serve as the starting point and guide for governmental action during the transition period.

II. Principles and Guidelines for Action

Civil society should work in this particularly sensitive context by remaining faithful to the principle of independence, of responsibility, and by affirming the necessity of a constructive dialogue with the authorities.

Civil society is primarily concerned with the following five needs:

  • need to safeguard and to reinforce a state of law as condition for the participation of citizens, for the maintenance of peace and for development
  • need to focus reconstruction activity on development of the human capital which Congo has, putting particular stress on training, education, promotion of social welfare and information
  • need to conceive and put in place a process of decentralization of public power so as to favor grassroots participation in the current transition phase and to reinforce local administration
  • need to manage public property with transparency and equity
  • need to address the problems of the country with an eye to Panafrican and regional integration.

III. Recommendations

Preliminary remarks: In order to involve the grassroots in the process of reconstruction, civil society suggests holding provincial reconstruction conferences involving local authorities, that can serve as opportunities for dialogue among the government, the people and civil society.

1. Urgently promote a large campaign of civic education for citizens stressing the positive values of the Congolese people against intolerance, for peace and inter-regional consciousness. This campaign should be a concerted action among all the active forces of the country.

2. Reconstruct basic public infrastructure: roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, etc.

3. Promote new policies of health, education, and environmental protection in both urban and rural milieu.

4. Reinforce and organize systems of social development.

5. Define food strategies for urban centers that do not damage the interests of rural development.

6. Define a regulatory and ethical code for media and religious groups in order to protect citizens and to defend freedom of expression.

7. Reform the Congolese administration by rehabilitating public office, defining the role and the benefits of ministerial offices and encouraging a wage policy based on merit.

8. Concerning state property, the selection of managers should be based on competence. An inventory of government-owned real estate should be compiled, and a juridical procedure established to regain property sold off illegitimately.

9. On the financial and economic level, it is urgently necessary to restore the banking system, to encourage and strengthen small and middle-level businesses (in access to credit) and to aid base communities in gaining access to credit.

10. Promote the defense of consumer rights.

11. Urgently put in place a program of youth mobilization by creation of a system to involve them in public works of reconstruction.

12. On the humanitarian level, steps should be taken to encourage the return of refugees and to aid displaced Congolese.

13. Promote women as essential agents of the processes of innovation and change in the Congo.

14. Struggle against social exclusion by rehabilitating vulnerable children and putting in place a national commission on disability.

15. Promote a new security policy:

    * dispel the existing confusion between the ADFL (Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo) and the security forces, between the army on one hand and police and justice on the other; in other words, move progressively from a state of "exception" to a state of law

    * put in place a truly national army within the framework of a new defense policy

    * regularize payment for soldiers and get control over the troops

    * restore military inspection services

    * promote training in human rights and in techniques of maintaining order within the armed forces and security forces

    * create a national police

    * put in place a program to demobilize under-age soldiers

    * design and implement a policy of retraining of the soldiers of the former Zairian army, taking into account the proven needs of national security.

16. Reinforce a state of law in the Democratic Republic of the Congo:

    * identify and sanction violations of human rights

    * reinforce and encourage the work of associations for the defense of human rights

    * reform the judicial system in order to give it independence, social credibility and accountability.

17. Promote good governance:

  • encourage transparency in relations between state officials and the public, in encouraging, for example, the declaration of income before taking ministerial office
  • put in place an inspection service in the executive during the transition phase along lines to be defined
  • on the electoral level, it is necessary to have a gradual process with local, legislative and presidential elections; these elections should be well prepared with an electoral census, putting in pace of a democratic electoral code, the creation of an independent national electoral commission and the promotion of a campaign of electoral education.

18. The financing of reconstruction:

    * Financing should be both internal and external. Multinational companies should carry out their social obligations by paying dues to local communities within which they are located. In addition, incentives should be established by the government to attract private investors within the framework of a genuinely attractive investment code.

    * It is time to put in place a transparent fiscal policy, particularly with respect to state income. This is necessary in order to break with a well-established practice of evasion by certain private parties of their fiscal obligations to the state. It would be prudent to design a fiscal policy at two levels, both local and national, in order to permit local communities to benefit directly from a portion of state income.

    * It is urgent to begin a process of recovery of stolen property abroad by mobilizing both Congolese and non-Congolese professional resources. In this respect, our counterpart organizations in the West should demand that their governments take appropriate measures toward restoring the stolen property.

    * Renegotiation of Congo's foreign debt should be on the immediate agenda, and here too the role of our partner organizations is fundamental.

19. Steps should be taken to put in place local and national conflict-resolution mechanisms, including a national emergency plan. It would also be wise to take into account traditional conflict resolution mechanisms, including the role of traditional chiefs.

Other measures include naming a national mediator, getting under way a national program of peace education in the schools, encouraging multi-ethnic participation in NGOs, and ensuring that those responsible for words or deeds inciting hatred and genocide are punished.

IV. Specific Recommendations

Civil society will take in the coming weeks all necessary initiatives to encourage a dialogue among political forces and the government in order to decrease tension in the current situation, to maintain social peace and to prevent conflicts.

Civil society hopes that a permanent arrangement for coordination between it and the government will be put in place in order to reflect in a constructive way on issues concerning the future of the nation.

With respect to dialogue between communities, civil society will take initiatives along several lines:

  • organization of dialogue meetings among base communities in Kivu
  • contribution to the process of an systematic census of citizens in order to modify the nationality code
  • promote deep reflection on the origins of the conflicts between Katangans and Kasaians.

V. Conclusion

Those here assembled recommend the immediate organization of provincial reconstruction conferences initiated by civil society in cooperation with the government. In the course of these conferences, delegates will also be designated to constitute at the national level a follow-up committee with the responsibility of coordinating the efforts of civil society and of maintaining dialogue with the central authorities.

This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC), the educational affiliate of the Washington Office on Africa. APIC's primary objective is to widen the policy debate in the United States around African issues and the U.S. role in Africa, by concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant information and analysis usable by a wide range of groups and individuals.

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