DRC: UN welcomes rebel signing of peace accord [19990902]

DRC: UN welcomes rebel signing of peace accord [19990902]

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: UN welcomes rebel signing of peace accord

NAIROBI, 1 September (IRIN) - UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Tuesday expressed his satisfaction with the signing earlier that day of the Lusaka ceasefire agreement on the DRC by the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD), saying it "should clear the way for the timely implementation of the ceasefire agreement, enhance the peace and security of the region and facilitate the long-awaited international support towards national recovery." He also reiterated his call on all belligerents "to honour their commitment to implement the ceasefire and facilitate the early commencement of the national dialogue on the political future of the country."

The 50 founding members of the RCD signed the ceasefire agreement in Lusaka in the presence of the mediator of the peace process, Zambian President Frederick Chiluba, the foreign and defence ministers of the DRC, Namibia, Uganda, Rwanda, Zimbabwe and Angola, and Jean-Pierre Bemba, leader of the Ugandan-backed rebel Mouvement de liberation congolais (MLC), according to media sources.

Chiluba cautioned afterwards that the signing would not automatically bring peace to the DRC and called on the UN Security Council to approve the deployment of a peacekeeping force "with a mandate commensurate to the task at hand", the South African Broadcasting Corporation reported on Wednesday.

In welcoming the RCD signing, Annan underlined "the importance of ensuring the provision of food aid and the reestablishment of essential services, such as health, safe water and education" in the DRC, and called on all government and rebel officials to ensure "safe and unhindered access" for all UN and related personnel to those requiring humanitarian assistance, a press release received by IRIN stated. The UN Secretary-General also appealed to the donor community to respond generously to the inter-agency humanitarian appeal for the DRC and to mobilise the resources needed for peacekeeping and related efforts.

The Lusaka Agreement was signed on 10 July by the governments of the six countries involved in the conflict, and on 1 August by the MLC. A dispute between the RCD-Goma faction of Emile Ilunga and the rival RCD-Kisangani group led by Ernest Wamba dia Wamba as to who should properly represent the movement had delayed the RCD signing until Tuesday. In the end, South Africa and Zambia brokered the compromise agreement under which all 50 founding members - six of whom are reported to be loyal to Wamba - signed the document on the RCD's behalf.

The Lusaka agreement calls for the cessation of military activities within 24 hours of all parties signing. According to its terms, that should be followed by implementation and monitoring of the ceasefire by a Joint Military Commission (JMC), the withdrawal of foreign forces from the DRC, the deployment of an international peacekeeping force, the disarming of militia groups (including Rwandan Interahamwe and ex-FAR), and the initiation of an inter-Congolese dialogue on the political future of the DRC.

Within hours of the RCD signatures, disagreements arose between the Goma and Kisangani factions, with both insisting on representation on the JMC, the BBC reported on Wednesday.

The Lusaka agreement allowed for each signatory - then envisaged to be the states involved plus two rebel groups, the RCD and the MLC - to nominate two members each to the JMC, but the compromise by which all 50 RCD founding members signed for the movement deferred consideration of the JMC's make-up.

Representation on the JMC, the disarming of armed militia groups and the matter of whether the signing of the ceasefire by rebels would reflect their desire to find a peaceful solution to the conflict or merely the intensity of diplomatic pressure on them were among the serious concerns identified by regional analysts who spoke to IRIN. The consensus among observers of the Lusaka process was that although the signature of the ceasefire agreement was difficult enough, it would be still more difficult to deliver that ceasefire and then build on it for a lasting peace in the region.


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Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1999

Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D

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