So, a peace deal in the Democratic Republic of Congo. About time. Does that mean the
problems are solved?
If only. Its never quite that simple. In fact, even to characterise the
Peace, Security and Co-operation Framework for the DRC and the Region as a
peace deal is to misrepresent it. It is, at best, the beginning of a long
process of negotiation, compromise and reform. At worst, it is a pretty bit of
paper with no application in the real world, and a good public relations
Then whats the point of the agreement?
The agreement, according to Business Days Elissa Jobson, “aims to
address two of the root causes of the conflict in the eastern DRC: the
countrys weak and dysfunctional security, justice and governance systems, and
the continued interference from neighbouring countries.” This follows last
years escalation in violence in the eastern DRC, led by a rebel group which
calls itself M23. The rebels were able to wrest significant chunks of territory
from the Congolese soldiers, aided in whole or in part by Rwanda (Rwanda denies interfering, but
everyone else from the United Nations down is convinced it is involved. Uganda
has also been mentioned in connection with supporting the rebels).
Truth is, theres nothing new about this conflict. Names have changed
and organisations evolved, but the fighting between various groups in the
eastern DRC has been going on for nearly two decades. Despite its ambition, the
framework agreed in Addis Ababa makes little attempt to seriously address the
conflicts underlying issues; it is merely an attempt to get all the countries
with an interest (malign or otherwise) in the region on the same page. The
rebels themselves werent even consulted.
What? The rebels that caused the problem arent
even part of the solution?
Thats right. The agreement was signed by representatives from 11
African countries: Rwanda, Uganda, South
Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo,
Tanzania, Mozambique, South Sudan, Zambia, Burundi
Also present was Ban Ki-Moon of the United Nations. Notably absent was any
representation from M23, despite the fact that its going to be a little
difficult to implement any kind of plan for eastern Congo without its cooperation.
Having said this, the rebels are having their own peace talks with the
Congolese government in Kampala
at the moment; however, these have stalled as neither side is particularly
willing to compromise.
Also excluded, incidentally, is any mention of Congolese civil society. In initial drafts civil society
was to have a prominent role in overseeing the implantation of the agreement,
but the final copy left this up to the Congolese government.
So what did the countries actually agree? And
whos going to enforce it?
The headline commitments in the brief agreement (just a couple of pages)
are that the Congolese government pledges to continue and deepen security
sector reform; to speed up the decentralization process; and to further
economic development. The commitments from regional governments, including Rwanda and Uganda, are to refrain from
interfering in the internal affairs of neighbouring countries and to “neither
tolerate nor provide assistance or support of any kind to armed groups”.
Thats all good stuff, but nothing we havent heard before. It reads
like a wish list, commented Al- Jazeeras Nazanine Moshiri, and looks great “on
paper”. However, Moshiri and others have been quick to point out that its the
implementation of the agreement that really counts, and this seems a little
The plan is that four international bodies – the UN, the African Union,
the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, and the Southern
African Development Community – will all be responsible for enforcing the
agreement. But there are no details on who will take the lead, what form
enforcement will take, or whos going to pay for it. There have been plans in
the works for some time for a southern African-led force to bolster existing UN
peacekeeping operations in the region, so perhaps that will be fast-tracked,
but this is little more than speculation at this point.
Does this change anything for the peacekeeping
troops already there? Especially the 1,000-strong South African contingent?
Ideally yes. If the agreement is followed to the letter, then all
foreign assistance for the rebels should dry up and the Congolese government
would magically become an engine of development and economic growth. In
practice, its difficult to assume that any of the promises made in the
agreement will be kept for long, especially given the respective parties track
records (agreements very similar to this have been signed in the past, dont
forget). This means that the need for the peacekeepers is not going away any
time soon. The only potential change is that, as a result of this new impetus
behind the peace process, the peacekeepers mandate might be expanded to allow
them to be more pro-active in quashing potential threats (which could,
consequently, expose them to greater danger).
Currently, there are about 19,000 United Nations soldiers (including the
approximately 1,000 South Africans) in the DRC as part of Monusco, the United
Nations mission in the DRC. Their role is limited to protecting civilians from
immediate danger and facilitating aid work.
So, just to clarify: this is less a peace deal,
and more an effectively unenforceable expression of hope that excludes one of
the major protagonists?
That sounds about right. Still, lets not get too downcast. Problems
like the eastern DRC are not solved overnight, or on two sheets of paper; the
road to recovery is long and difficult. The Addis framework, while undoubtedly
flawed and not at all comprehensive, is another little bit of progress along
that road, and from that we can take hope.