UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
Central Africa: Nzongola-Ntalaja Speech, Part 1 & 2 Date distributed (ymd): 981111 Document reposted by APIC
Region: Central Africa Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +economy/development+ +security/peace+ Summary Contents: This posting contains a slightly condensed version of a speech by Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja on the crisis in the Great Lakes region, with particular emphasis on the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Dr. Nzongola-Ntalaja is a professor emeritus at Howard University, a former president of the African Association of Political Science and of the African Studies Association, and presided over the political affairs sub-commission in Congo's Sovereign National Conference. The speech concentrates on the historical roots of conflict, but also comments on the current crisis. It is reposted here by permission of the author.
An earlier statement on the crisis in the Congo by Dr. Nzongola-Ntalaja appears in the October 1998 Special Bulletin of the Association of Concerned Africa Scholars (ACAS). The Bulletin, which also contains articles on the crisis by M. Mamdami, Y. Bangura, E. Tshisekedi, I. Shivji, H. Campbell, T. Abdul-Raheem and additional documents is available from ACAS for $5. Order from ACAS, c/o Bill Martin, University of Illinois, 326 Lincoln Hall, 702 S. Wright St., Urbana, IL 61801. The table of contents is on the ACAS web site (http://www.prairienet.org/acas).
THE CRISIS IN THE GREAT LAKES REGION
Speech prepared for delivery at the African Renaissance Conference, sponsored by Mafube Publishing, SABC 2 and the Deputy President, Mr. Thabo Mbeki, and held in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 28-29 September 1998
[for Thabo Mbeki's speech at the conference, see http://www.anc.org.za/ancdocs/history/mbeki/1998/tm0928.htm]
Only a year ago, hopes were raised across the continent, that the second independence, and resurrection, of the Congo was going to allow this region to play a major role in the African renaissance. Having taken a dim view of the organizational capacity of the Congolese leadership involved, I was among the skeptics on this point, on the ground that the whole process was based on a purely militaristic strategy of liberation subordinated to an externally determined dynamic.
This dynamic, whether it is based on the global interests of major world powers, the expansionist aims of external actors seeking economic and commercial advantage, or the security interests of neighboring states, is a function of the size, the strategic location and the resource endowment of the Congo. Thus, throughout its history as a modern state, this country has been subject to external interests and meddling consistent with its strategic importance geographically and economically, as well as its potential role as a regional power in Africa. The present crisis cannot be properly understood without reference to this fundamental reality.
The Strategic and Economic Importance of the Congo
The first two major factors of the Congo's strategic importance are its size and geographical location in Africa. A vast territory of 2,345,406 square kilometers (905,562 sq. mi.), the country shares borders with nine other states in Central, East and Southern Africa: Congo-Brazzaville, Central African Republic (CAR), Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia and Angola. ...
Economically, the Congo has enormous wealth in natural resources. During the early phase of colonial penetration, a Belgian prospector was so awed by the wide range of mineral resources that he was led to conclude that the Congo was a geological scandal.
The real scandal, however, is that the country's wealth has not been used to benefit the vast majority of its inhabitants. During the colonial period, this wealth was extracted basically to spur the economic development of Belgium. Since independence, it has been used mostly to enrich the state bourgeoisie that emerged during the Mobutu regime, together with their foreign associates, Lebanese for the most part. In both periods, the strategic minerals were targeted for use by the United States and its Western allies. According to the experts, the most important strategic materials needed for the 21st century are found in three countries of the world: China, Russia and the Congo, particularly in the two Kivu provinces in the Great Lakes Region. Therein lies the deeper significance of the present crisis.
Known primarily as a minerals producing economy, the country has such an ecological diversity that it is also rich in non-mineral resources. Approximately one third of the total area is made up of the tropical rain forest, in a country that is nearly twice the size of South Africa, three times the size of Nigeria, five times the size of France, and over 80 times the size of little Belgium, its former colonial power. The whole area is dominated by the Congo River basin, and includes seven great and medium lakes, plus hundreds of rivers and small lakes. ... Part of this potential has already been harnessed through the Inga Dam to provide electricity to the Congo and some of its neighbors, including Zambia and Zimbabwe in Southern Africa. This hydroelectric complex has the potential of lighting up the whole continent of Africa, from Cairo to Cape Town.
With 12 months of rainfall in much of the rainforest and plenty of rain in the two savanna zones on each side of the Equator, the Congo can also feed the entire continent. Today, it is estimated that less than 3 percent of its arable land is under cultivation. It is this basic aspect of a bountiful natural resource endowment that explains why massive starvation has not occurred, in spite of all the violent crises and the collapse of the formal economy. A major consequence of this collapse is that this country of over 40 million people is today exporting a large number of highly skilled people to other countries in Africa and abroad. South Africa alone is said to have over 350 Congolese medical doctors.
It is this strategic and economic importance of the country that underlines the Congo's centrality to the African revolution and the African renaissance. Frantz Fanon once remarked that if Africa as a whole were a revolver, the Congo would be its trigger. Those who did not wish to see our country play this emancipatory role with respect to the liberation of Africa did their best to destabilize the country and to place it under the control of reactionary elements like Moise Tshombe and Mobutu Sese Seko. G. Mennen Williams, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations, wrote in an August 1965 article in Africa Report that since whoever controls the Congo is likely to have enormous influence over the whole continent of Africa, it was in Uncle Sam's interest to make sure that the country's rulers were America's friends. Jacques Foccart, the eminence grise of Gaullist African policy and the virtual proconsul of Francophone Africa until his death last year, has this to say in his memoirs about French involvement in the Congo:
You asked me what was France's interest. On this matter, there is no ambiguity. Congo-Leopoldville, Zaire today, is the largest country in Francophone Africa. It has considerable natural resources. It has the means of being a regional power. The long-term interest of France and its African allies is evident.*
What is evident to Congolese patriots is that France, like other Western powers, does not wish to see the Congo become a regional power. For Paris, this may threaten French hegemony in a region in which it has considerable interests in the resource rich countries of Gabon, Congo-Brazzaville, Cameroon and the CAR. Until the demise of the apartheid system, this was also the position of its backers here and abroad. For the West and its colonial-settler allies in South Africa, a Congo in disarray under the Mobutu kleptocracy was preferable to a strong and well organized state under the control of patriotic and Pan-African elements. For the latter would have played a critical role in the liberation of Southern Africa. The assassination of Patrice Lumumba, the support of the Katanga secession by Belgium, France, Britain and white settlers from the Congo to South Africa, and Mobutu's involvement in Angola's wars on the side of reactionary forces, were all part of this strategy.
The long-standing interest of major Western countries in the Congo thus relates primarily to the strategic importance of the country geographically and economically. For Washington, the catalyst for this interest was the strategic value of Congo's uranium, with which the United States manufactured the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs, the world's ever first atomic weapons. As a result, the U.S. found for itself a vital national interest in the then Belgian Congo, as well as a wider Western stake in preventing the Soviet Union and its allies from gaining influence in post-independence Congo.
Today, although the policy emphasis has shifted from the fight against communism to coping with transnational threats such as terrorism, narco-trafficking and humanitarian disasters, the strategic goal of privileged access to critically needed resources and strong influence over the governments controlling that access remains unchanged. This is what both the United States and France are pursuing in the Great Lakes Region, in a historical context in which the people of Africa are clamoring for regimes that show greater respect for human rights, including those to live in freedom, to earn a decent livelihood and to ensure a better future for their children. What is ironic in this instance is that so-called new breed leaders and champions of the African renaissance in this region happen to work in close partnership with U.S. imperialism.
The Historical Context: The Legacy of Authoritarianism
Popular aspirations for freedom and development in the face of authoritarian regimes and exclusionist policies constitute the backdrop to the present conflict in the Great Lakes Region. Although the major arena of the politics of exclusion is the zero-sum game, or life and death struggle, between Hutu and Tutsi in Rwanda and Burundi, the Congo could not escape being a party to the conflict because of the numerous historical ties between the three countries. These include the fact that there are ethnic Tutsi and Hutu who are Congolese citizens, a common experience of Belgian colonialism from World War I to 1960, and postcolonial political alliances between Mobutu and Rwandan leaders. Given the fact that the war is being fought in the Congo, my talk is going to deal principally with the Congolese aspects of the conflict, while references will be made as needed to the situation in Rwanda.
The legacy of authoritarianism in the Congo today can be traced back to the Leopoldian system, under which the country was run as a private possession of Leopold II, King of the Belgians, from 1885 to 1908. ... In 1885, the country entered colonial history as a theoretically independent state, the Congo Free State (CFS), but one under the personal rule of the Belgian monarch who, for all intents and purposes, treated it like a going concern. ...
To make it profitable, the King hired an international cast of adventurers and mercenaries led by Henry Morton Stanley to plunder the country of its resources. CFS agents used so much terror and violence to extract wealth through quasi-slave labor that they committed crimes against humanity. According to the best demographic analyses now available, the human toll of the repression, together with the diseases associated with European penetration like syphilis, amounted to the death of nearly 10 million people.
Christian missionaries like the Rev. William Sheppard, an African-American Presbyterian from Virginia, and humanitarian organizations such as Edmond Morel's Congo Reform Association (CRA), launched an international human rights campaign against the Leopoldian system. With celebrities like the African-American leader Booker T. Washington and the writer Mark Twain leading the American branch of the CRA, the U.S. government was compelled to join Britain and other major powers in obtaining King Leopold's ouster as Congo's ruler and the transformation of the presumably independent state into a Belgian colony. Belgium inherited not only a country but also a legacy. Given the economic motives of the colonial system, Belgian colonialism did not, and could not, free itself from the legacy of the Free State. The basic features of economic exploitation, political repression and cultural oppression remained essentially the same, albeit less brutal.
Whatever efforts the Belgians deployed in attempting to make the Congo a model colony, where natives have happy smiles, resistance to colonial rule remained a reality, particularly in those areas where prophetic religious movements and peasant opposition to colonial economic exploitation were strongest. This was the case in Lower Congo, the central region of the pre-colonial Kongo Kingdom, now split between Angola, Congo-Brazzaville and Congo-Kinshasa.
In 1921, a Baptist catechist and palm oil company worker in Kinshasa began a prophetic ministry that went on to influence the course of events leading to independence nearly 40 years later. The man was Simon Kimbangu, founder of what his sons and followers would later call the Church of Jesus Christ on Earth by the Prophet Simon Kimbangu (Eglise de Jesus Christ sur la Terre par le Prophete Simon Kimbangu, EJCSK). According to Kimbangu's own testimony, God had appeared to him in a vision and asked him to leave his work for the white man, fight against sorcery and other negative customs, and lead his people to liberation from while rule.
Back in his village, which he renamed Nkamba-Jerusalem, Kimbangu started his ministry with this radical message, in addition to performing miracles and speaking in strange tongues. As a result, thousands of workers abandoned their jobs in government agencies, private companies and white households, to see and hear the new prophet at Nkamba-Jerusalem talk about racial pride, liberation, self-reliance and all other familiar themes associated with the concept of the African renaissance. As one would expect, the colonial trinity of the state, the Catholic Church and major private companies reacted quickly and vigorously. Kimbangu was arrested, tried and condemned to death for treason. By royal decree, the sentence was reduced to life imprisonment, which the prophet served at the infamous Kasapa Prison at Lubumbashi until his death in 1951. Inasmuch as we admire President Nelson Mandela for having endured with courage 27 years of detention, we Congolese are proud of the fact that the martyr of our struggle for freedom spent three more years in jail than Madiba. And I am not aware of any other political prisoner anywhere in the world who has broken Kimbangu's record of 30 years in prison.
I have spent so much time on Kimbangu to underline the point that the idea of an African renaissance is not a new one. There is some evidence that Kimbangu was influenced by what he learned in Kinshasa from a small circle of people with a reading knowledge of English about articles in Marcus Garvey's paper, The Negro World. The Back-to-Africa idea caught the imagination of people like Kimbangu, who held popular notions of mputu or the white world (Europe and America) as the place where African people like the Bakongo go when they die. Now the people who had been taken from Africa as slaves had become powerful relatives who were about to return home to help free their people from white rule. For Kimbangu and his followers, the realization of the Pan-Africanist ideal of Africa for the Africans was God's will, indeed.
One of the little known facts of Belgian colonial rule in Africa is its extensive record of crimes against humanity committed against the followers of Prophet Kimbangu between 1921 and 1959, when Belgian authorities ended the persecution of Kimbanguists and granted legal recognition to their church, which became a member of the Geneva-based World Council of Churches in 1969. Until 1959, thousands of Kimbanguists languished in relegation camps, built in the remotest areas of the country. Ironically, these detention centers served as relay stations for spreading the messianic message of liberation to all political prisoners and to other people with whom the faithful came into contact.
In 1956, a popular movement for democracy was born with the launching of the struggle for independence. This was a great national awakening, with people from all walks of life ready to shed fear to manifest their permanent aspiration for freedom and their desire for a better life materially and a more secure future for their children. In Central Africa, this struggle was inspired by the fight against racism and oppression in South Africa and in the African diaspora of North America and the Caribbean, home of the intellectual pioneers of pan-Africanism (H. Sylvester Williams, W.E.B. DuBois, Marcus Garvey). A major leader of the struggle in the Belgian Congo was Joseph Kasa-Vubu, a Kongo intellectual who was perceived by many of his people as the successor to the Prophet Kimbangu.
As part of the self-determination drive of the postwar era in Asia and Africa, the 1950s were greatly marked by a reawakening of the African spirit through intellectual movements such as Negritude. ... In the Belgian Congo, these radical currents of reclaiming history as both independent actor and authentic story teller were best reflected in the political life and thought of Patrice Lumumba, the leader who best incarnated the aspirations of an entire nation as the standard bearer of genuine independence, economic development and Pan-African unity.
Central Africa: Nzongola-Ntalaja Speech, PART 2
(continued from part 1)
Unfortunately, Lumumba remained in power for less than three months. Right after independence, the Congo was plunged into a major crisis, following the mutiny of the former colonial army and the secession of Katanga, its richest province. The Congo Crisis, as it was known, lasted four years and involved up to then the largest deployment of United Nations peacekeeping forces. ...
The main beneficiary of the Congo Crisis and the man the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and policymakers identified as the strongman needed to rule the Congo was none other than Joseph-Desire Mobutu. A former sergeant in the colonial army, he was appointed Chief of Staff of the Congolese National Army in July 1960 by Prime Minister Lumumba. Having betrayed his mentor and served his foreign masters well, Mobutu finally took over as head of state in a military coup d'etat in 1965. ...
In 32 years of absolute power, Mobutu and his henchmen ruined the country by destroying its economic and social fabric and making it the laughingstock of the whole world. Mobutu put an end to the democratic experiment of the first five years of Congo's existence as an independent state. His dictatorship was backed by military force and a party-state system from which he recruited his cronies and retainers internally, and by the United States, France and Belgium, externally. When they were needed, the three external powers intervened militarily to save the dictator from armed insurgents seeking to overthrow him. In 1996-97, when that support did not materialize, Mobutu could no longer hang on to power. He was forced to flee the country. And he died in exile less that four months later, in September 1997.
Before Mobutu's demise, a movement for multiparty democracy had arisen under the leadership of Etienne Tshisekedi wa Mulumba in 1980, to help pull the country out of the unending political and economic crisis in which the dictator had plunged it. By 1991, the leaders of the democracy movement had rejected Mobutu's plans to set up a constitutional conference and insisted on the holding of a Sovereign National Conference. Following the example set earlier that year in Benin, national conferences had become popular in Africa as democratic forums of all the relevant social forces of a nation designed to take stock of what has gone wrong in the past and to chart a new course for the future.
National conferences were conceived as a combination of a truth and reconciliation commission and a constitutional commission to serve as both a forum for a national catharsis in the African tradition of conflict resolution through the palaver, and a modern rule of law mechanism for setting into motion a successful transition to democracy. They were also seen to be all the more critical in countries like Congo-Kinshasa, which lacked the minimum infrastructure for free and fair elections. The conference, whose decisions are meant to be binding on all parties or groups, was therefore the most appropriate forum from which a transitional government could emerge to prepare the way for multiparty elections and progress towards democracy.
In the Congo, the Sovereign National Conference (Conference Nationale Souveraine, CNS) took place from 7 August 1991 and 6 December 1992 in Kinshasa. For progressive forces, it was the most appropriate arena for the transfer of power from the forces of the status quo to those of change, from the agents of external powers to nationalist leaders committed to seeing the country recover its full sovereignty, which constitutes the sine qua non of raising the standard of living of the popular masses. Unfortunately, Mobutu's resistance to change and monumental errors by the opposition combined to make the conference fail with respect to one of its primary missions, namely, the establishment of an orderly and non-violent transition to democracy. At the same time, the CNS has left a legacy of freedom, popular resistance to illegitimate authority, commitment to political openness, diversity and the rule of law.
The Fall of Mobutu and Kabila's Rise to Power
The failure of the democratic transition in the Congo was part of a violent backlash of authoritarian regimes against the democracy movement in a number of African countries, including Rwanda and Burundi. In the Rwanda case, the late President Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu, had been in power since 1973. During 20 years of personal rule, he steadfastly refused to allow Tutsi victims of the 1959 pogrom and subsequent violence, who were in exile in neighboring countries, to return home. Under the leadership of the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF), the Tutsi diaspora in Uganda launched a military campaign to overthrow the Habyarimana regime in October 1990. France, Belgium and Mobutu's Zaire came to the dictator's rescue and prevented a RPF victory.
Under the auspices of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), negotiations over two years between Habyarimana's government and the RPF to end the civil war led to the signing of the Arusha accords in 1993. These included the Arusha Peace Agreement of 4 August 1993, a cease-fire agreement, and six Protocols on the rule of law, power sharing, repatriation of refugees and resettlement of displaced persons, integration of armed forces and other issues. In spite of having signed these accords, President Habyarimana did his best to undermine them, and this played into the hands of Hutu extremists bent on exterminating the Tutsi.
The shooting down of Habyarimana's plane on 6 April 1994 gave these extremists the occasion they needed to unleash their genocidal machine against the Tutsi and moderate Hutu. With nearly a million people killed, the genocide ended in July after the RPF military victory and seizure of power in Kigali. France's supposedly humanitarian Operation Turquoise (June-August 1994) saved the Hutu genocide machine, which was made up of the defeated Forces Armees Rwandaises (FAR) and the Interahamwe militia, by helping them to escape with virtually all of their weapons into the UNHCR refugee camps in the Congo. There, they were able to regroup to stage repeated raids into Rwanda against the RPF regime. It was precisely the Rwandan initiative to destroy the Hutu refugee camps and, consequently, the military bases of the ex-FAR and the Hutu extremist militia in the Congo, that helped propel Laurent Kabila to power in Kinshasa.
According to his interviews with the Washington Post (9 July 1997) and with Ugandan Professor Mahmood Mamdani (Mail and Guardian, 8 August 1997), General Paul Kagame, the Rwandan strongman, stated in no uncertain terms that the seven month war leading to Mobutu's overthrow was planned in Kigali and led by Rwandan military officers. This is not surprising, since Mr. Kabila had no credible autonomous organization and no coherent social project or political programme. He was recalled from his business ventures by the coalition of states led by Rwanda and Uganda with the aim of ending the Mobutu dictatorship, to provide a Congolese facade for what was actually an external military intervention. Much is made of the role of Congolese Tutsi known as Banyamulenge. If it is true that their rebellion against expulsion orders by Kivu provincial authorities did play a critical role in the outbreak of the war, they represent such a tiny minority that by themselves, they are incapable of sustaining a major military operation across our vast country.
I applauded and continue to defend the role that Uganda, Rwanda, Angola, Eritrea and others played in removing Mobutu from power. The fact that Mobutu's own army hardly fought to keep its master in power is a clear demonstration of how discredited the regime had become in the eyes of the people. However, in asserting their Pan-African right of intervention to help free the Congolese people from oppression, the external coalition made a serious error. This consisted in handpicking Kabila as the leader to replace Mobutu. A national leader, as Nelson Mandela declared in 1990 when he got out of jail, is chosen at a national conference. He or she should not be chosen by foreign governments or be self-proclaimed. What needed to be done was to convene a roundtable of Congolese patriots and democrats so they could choose the leader and a broad-based government of national unity.
Having no solid political base in the country, Kabila established personal rule based on nepotism, cronyism and hero worship, and characterized by incompetence and general lack of political direction. Instead of a national leader with vision for the country's future, he gave the impression of a leader cut off from the people and relying primarily on a small circle of associates chosen on the basis of family, ethnic or clientelist ties. Moreover, he sought to turn the clock backwards politically, by denying the significance and legacy of the Sovereign National Conference, banning political activity and jailing opposition leaders, and attempting to close the space of democratic freedom and civil liberties that the people of the Congo had dearly won against the decadent Mobutu dictatorship.
The Current War in the Congo
The current war is a function of both external and internal factors. The external factor relates to the national security interests that Rwanda and Uganda have with respect to the northeastern region of the Congo. These interests include issues of cross-border violence as well as economic and geopolitical stakes, which led the two countries to support the war of liberation against the Mobutu regime in 1996-97. Today, the two countries seem determined to impose a weak regime in Kinshasa, one that would question their control over the eastern part of the country and its considerable natural wealth, now being openly exploited by their political authorities and businesspeople. As for Kabila's new allies, the defense of international law and OAU principles is a convenient pretext for their own economic and geopolitical calculations. The case of Zimbabwe is particularly revealing in this regard.*
Having led the military operations against the old regime, Rwandan military officers and many of their soldiers remained in the Congo to help Kabila secure his rule. For over a year, President Kabila kept a Rwandan officer, Commander James Kabarebe, as chief of staff of the national army, the Forces Armees Congolaises (FAC). With Rwandan nationals and Congolese Tutsi with close ties to the Rwandan leadership occupying high level positions in the DRC, Rwandan authorities could be assured that their interests were being protected. As for Uganda, joint patrols by its army and Congolese troops on the Congo side of the border helped to strengthen its attempt to stop infiltration by armed militias based in the DRC.
This arrangement came apart as both Rwanda and Uganda became dissatisfied with mounting incursions by rebels operating from the Congo, and with what they perceived as lack of concern for their security by President Kabila. If it is true that these two countries, like Burundi and Angola, have legitimate security interests along their borders with the Congo, they cannot place all the blame for continued insecurity on Kabila. After all, what prevented the mysterious "Commander James" and the other Rwandan commanders in the FAC from working with Rwanda to ensure the latter's security? As for Uganda, which actually had troops inside the DRC, is Kabila to blame for the Ugandan army's failure to stop rebel infiltrations?
These questions suggest that the security issue as narrowly defined with respect to rebel infiltrations does not in itself explain the determination of Kabila's former allies to dump him. His erratic style of leadership, the animosity towards him by the United States, the major external partner of both Kampala and Kigali, and his own desire to play the nationalistic card to win popular support at home, must have played a role. There is evidence that a palace coup was attempted against Kabila, and this resulted in an irretrievable breakup of the 1996 alliance. President Kabila's decision on 27 July 1998 to send all Rwandan officers and troops home triggered the flight from Kinshasa of virtually all Congolese Tutsi senior officials. On the 2nd of August, less than a week later, a rebellion aimed at ousting him from power with the support of both Rwanda and Uganda, was launched.
Internally, the war has a lot to do with the failure of the Kabila regime to meet the people's expectations that his regime will be radically different from Mobutu's dictatorship. The rebels' declared grievances against Kabila are shared by many segments of the Congolese population. However, their sponsorship by Rwanda and Uganda and the fact that close collaborators of former President Mobutu are found in their ranks, have diminished their political credibility, in spite of the fact that they are led by such highly respected intellectuals as Ernest Wamba-dia-Wamba and Jacques Depelchin. If they do win the war militarily, they will find it difficult to govern a basically hostile population, which perceives them as agents of foreign powers. In spite of their good intentions, they will have a lot of difficulty freeing themselves from their cumbersome Rwandan military allies.
The widening of the war with the intervention of Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia and others on the side of the Kabila regime has created a situation that may degenerate into a larger regional war in Central Africa. The longer it continues, the more suffering it will inflict on innocent civilians, who are daily subject to gross violations of human rights, including crimes against humanity. This is particularly the case with respect to incitement to ethnic hatred and genocide against the Tutsi by Congolese officials.
There is no military solution to the current war in the Congo. Given their evident limitations in capacity, all the parties to the conflict cannot sustain a long and costly war. Even Angola, the militarily strongest of all the belligerents, cannot afford to stretch its resources too thin by embarking on an all-out conquest of the territories lost by the Kabila regime in the eastern region of the counry. A political solution is needed, and this is possible only after genuine negotiations towards a cease-fire.
So far, efforts to obtain a cease-fire have failed because of the contested status of the Rassemblement Congolais pour la Democratie (RCD), the rebel alliance, and Rwanda's denial of its involvement in the war. Not only does the RCD have to be included as a genuinely Congolese party to the conflict, but Rwanda must also acknowledge its own involvement in it. Without these two realities being acknowledged by all concerned, negotiations towards a cease-fire are doomed to failure. Why should the RCD accept to stop fighting if it is not a party to the negotiations? And how can Rwanda withdraw troops that supposedly are not on Congolese territory?
Once a cease-fire is achieved, it must be followed by the withdrawal of all foreign troops and the deployment of a small African or international force to monitor the peace accords. However, the establishment of a durable peace in the Congo can come only through a lasting political solution to the internal and external challenges facing the country. Internally, there is a need for a more inclusive government, and one that will reconcile the revolutionary legacy of the AFDL destitution of the Mobutu regime with the democratic legacy of the Sovereign National Conference. National reconciliation and the transition from personal rule to the rule of law must be accompanied by ending impunity, introducing transparency in public finances, creating a truly national army to replace paramilitary and militia forces, and strengthening state institutions to enhance their capacity for national reconstruction and economic development. This process must include the protection of the space of democratic freedom and civil liberties gained since 1990. Without freedom, reconstruction and development, any talk of an African renaissance is meaningless.
Externally, the DRC must strengthen its capacity to police its borders so as to take into account the legitimate security interests of its neighbors. Rebels from Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Angola should not be allowed to use Congolese soil for armed raids into their respective countries. The best safeguards for these countries' security interests is the presence of an inclusive government in Kinshasa, backed up by a modest but well trained professional army whose members are drawn from all over the national territory. The test of the neighbors' commitment to Pan-Africanism and the African renaissance will be the degree to which they put African interests ahead of their commitments to external partners.
Finally, an all-parties conference is needed as the most appropriate forum for resolving the crisis of transition in the Congo. This involves the adoption of a legal and institutional framework of transition. Such a framework should include a provisional constitution, defining the length of the transition, its priority tasks, and the institutions that will carry them out; a minimum government programme of action for the transitional period; and a national unity government to implement this programme and help other transitional institutions fulfill their tasks.
I appeal to all of you and through you, to the South African government, to give strong support to this idea of an all-parties conference as an indispensable step for resolving the present crisis in the Congo.
Thank you for your attention.
* See Robert Block's article, "Zimbabwe's Elite Turn Strife in Nearby Congo Into a Quest for Riches," The Wall Street Journal, 9 October 1998.
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