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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 Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.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): Peace Talks Update

Congo (Kinshasa): Peace Talks Update
Date distributed (ymd): 990624
Document reposted by APIC

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

Region: Central Africa
Issue Areas: +security/peace+
Summary Contents:
This posting contains two recent updates from the UN's Integrated Regional Information Network on peace talks for the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. To follow the latest developments, go to: and to:

For additional news sources on Congo (Kinshasa), consult

Other recent background reports on the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo include:

Human Rights Watch, Casualties of War (February 1999)

Foreign Policy in Focus, War in the Congo (February 1999)

International Crisis Group, Africa's Seven-Nation War (May 1999)

International Crisis Group, How Kabila Lost His Way (May 1999)

+++++++++++++++++end profile++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

IRIN Background report on peace efforts

UN IRIN-CEA Tel: +254 2 622123 Fax: +254 2 622129 ]

[This item is delivered in the "irin-english" service of the UN's IRIN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations. For further information or free subscriptions, or to change your keywords, contact e-mail: or fax: +254 2 622129 or Web: If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer.]

NAIROBI, 22 June (IRIN) - DRC peace talks this week in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, are expected to try to merge the various mediation initiatives aimed at finding a negotiated solution to the conflict.

The following provides background information on the principal peace efforts since the start of the conflict in August 1998.

The Lusaka peace process

The annual summit of the 14-member Southern African Development Community (SADC), held in Mauritius on 13-14 September [1998], appointed Zambian President Frederick Chiluba to lead mediation efforts, assisted by Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa and Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano.

Under the initiative, several ministerial meetings have been held, but a heads of state summit originally scheduled for early December to secure a ceasefire was postponed several times. One of the problems has been disagreement over the participation of Congolese rebels in the negotiations.

Two committees under the Lusaka peace process have drafted "modalities" for the implementation of an eventual ceasefire agreement and collected information on the security concerns of the DRC and its neighbours. Meetings this week in Lusaka are expected to culminate in a heads of state summit on Saturday, at which Chiluba hopes a ceasefire agreement will be signed.

Presidents Mkapa and Chissano have held their own contacts with parties to the conflict to discuss peace prospects, but it is unclear how closely those efforts have been coordinated with those of Chiluba.

The Sirte agreement

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's diplomatic contacts with countries involved in the conflict began in September and intensified in December when he met separately with DRC President Laurent-Desire Kabila, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and rebel leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba. Official Libyan communiques have since referred to Gaddafi as the "Coordinator of the Peace Process in the Great Lakes."

On 18 April, Gaddafi brokered a peace agreement between Museveni and Kabila, also signed by the Presidents of Chad and Eritrea, in the Libyan town of Sirte, which called for the withdrawal of foreign forces from the DRC. Subsequently, Chad withdrew its troops from the country and Libya sent some 40 military personnel to Uganda to prepare for the deployment of a proposed neutral African peacekeeping force under the Sirte accord. However, Rwanda and the other countries with forces in the DRC were not party to the Sirte agreement.

On 15 May, Gaddafi hosted a mini-summit of African leaders in Sirte to discuss peace efforts and the implementation of the Sirte accord.

The Organisation of African Unity (OAU)

At the start of the conflict, OAU Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim sent emissaries to Rwanda, Uganda and the DRC to investigate the reported "invasion" of the DRC. In September, the OAU hosted a meeting of ministers in Addis Ababa during which a draft ceasefire agreement was formulated. That agreement, though agreed in principle by the belligerents, was never signed. The OAU has supported and participated in the Lusaka negotiations, and Salim has helped organise meetings between the parties to try to advance peace prospects.

The United Nations

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan helped broker a ceasefire deal among belligerent countries during the France-Africa summit in Paris in November, but that agreement did not hold. The UN Security Council issued three presidential statements between August and December, in which council members called for an end to hostilities, and it adopted resolution 1234 on 9 April, which called for the withdrawal of "uninvited troops" from the country.

Senior UN officials have attended negotiation sessions under the Lusaka initiative, and Annan appointed UN Special Envoy for the DRC Peace Process Moustapha Niasse on 1 April to determine the positions of the parties, identify obstacles to the signing of a ceasefire agreement and make recommendations on a possible UN role to complement existing peace initiatives. Niasse briefed the Security Council on the findings of his mission in a closed-door session on Monday.

South Africa

On 23 August, prior to the creation of the Chiluba-led committee on the DRC peace process, a SADC meeting mandated former South African President Nelson Mandela, then chairman of SADC, to organise a DRC ceasefire in consultation with the OAU Secretary-General. Mandela's mediation efforts were reportedly constrained by differences of opinion with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who heads the SADC security committee that authorised the military intervention in support of Kabila.

The US magazine 'Newsweek' earlier this month reported that new President Thabo Mbeki would announce a fresh peace initiative - involving the deployment of South African peacekeepers and the transformation of the belligerent foreign army units in the DRC into a peacekeeping force - but government officials have denied the report, saying South Africa supported the Lusaka peace process.


IRIN Special Report on the problems of policing a future peace agreement in the DRC

JOHANNESBURG, 10 June (IRIN) - Any future peace deal in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) would require the deployment of thousands of peacekeepers to monitor the ceasefire and withdrawal of foreign forces - a daunting undertaking given the size of the country and complexity of the conflict.

It is a commitment which at the moment has had few takers, security analysts told IRIN.

"I just become overwhelmed with the problem of trying to think through a plan," Mark Malan of the Pretoria-based Institute of Security Studies told IRIN on Thursday. "There are so many actors and so many interests at stake, it might not even be peacekeepable."

South Africa wary

South Africa, as the regional superpower, has often been cited as the natural lead nation in any multinational or UN peacekeeping mission for the DRC. However, South African officials are far more reticent. "It would be a mammoth task. We are being pressed into a corner, but it is something that would have to be studied very, very carefully," one foreign ministry source said.

Another senior official pointed out that "there are no specific plans at the moment" but a deployment would be a "political decision." The official added that South Africa has no peacekeeping experience, and with only two battalions trained as peacekeepers, the DRC would not be an ideal "maiden mission".

According to Malan, South Africa's contribution would have to be far larger than two battalions. Even if South Africa were to provide only logistical assistance to a peace mission such as aerial reconnaissance, a relatively large deployment would be needed to protect those assets. With Zimbabwean forces alone in the DRC estimated at some 9,000, the peacekeepers "would have to be larger than any other forces on the ground."

"Clearly this is not going to happen any time soon," Malan added. "There is no mission planning at the moment and no forum for military staff [from both sides of the conflict] to talk with one another." Neither has any regional or inter-governmental organisation stepped forward to take responsibility for a future deployment.

Mbeki plan

Given the problems that would be encountered in finding countries willing to commit troops for a DRC mission, a plan put forward by South Africa's Deputy President Thabo Mbeki in December offers an imaginative approach to the issue, government officials said.

At a meeting with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and Rwandan Vice-President Paul Kagame, Mbeki proposed that the belligerents themselves should be the peacekeepers and "police themselves" once a ceasefire and troop standstill is agreed, but under the authority of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).

"The UN is more likely than the OAU. But the Mbeki plan is probably the only feasible one proposed so far," Malan said. "It is the only feasible way of getting troops on the ground, and with a strong lead nation inserted like South Africa, it is the best shot we have."

However, the initiative was rejected by all sides in the conflict. Zimbabwe, heading the alliance of pro-Kinshasa forces, sees its intervention as a legitimate defence of the DRC government at the invitation of President Laurent-Desire Kabila and under the mandate of the Southern African Development Community security organ which Mugabe chairs.

Harare considers Rwandan and Ugandan military support for the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) as "foreign aggression" and has refused to countenance a withdrawal until those forces pull out. Uganda - and particularly Rwanda - on the other hand, are adamant that their security concerns must be addressed in any peace agreement. The current peace proposals call for an effective monitoring of their thickly-forested and porous borders to prevent infiltration by DRC government-backed rebels.

That would drive up the scale and cost of a peacekeeping mission and prove a difficult exercise for all but the most sophisticated of armies to accomplish.

This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC). 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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