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Congo: Consolidating the Peace

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International Crisis Group - July 5, 2007

To access the executive summary and recommendations in French, please click here.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo were a milestone in the peace process but much remains to be done to consolidate the gains. A return to full-scale war is unlikely but violence in Bas-Congo and Kinshasa in early 2007 with over 400 people killed and renewed threats of war in the Kivus show the country's fragility. The new government's relations with the opposition have deteriorated sharply, raising the possibility of a drift to authoritarianism and urban unrest in the West, while militias continue to clash with the weak national army in the East, displacing hundreds of thousands of civilians each year, many of whom succumb to hunger and disease. The elected democratic institutions need to promote transparent and accountable governance, which should in turn stimulate continuous international support as opposed to gradual disengagement. A new partnership arrangement is urgently required between the government and the international community to push forward on deep governance reforms.

The transition was in some ways an outstanding success. It unified a divided country and improved security in much of its territory. The six main armed groups were integrated to form a national army, however flawed it remains. The Independent Electoral Commission organised provincial and national elections, considered by most observers to be relatively free and fair and ushering in the first truly democratic government in 40 years. Foreign troops withdrew, and relations with Rwanda, one of the main sponsors of the war, improved dramatically. However, the new governing institutions remain weak and abusive or non-existent.

The integrated army has become the worst human rights abuser, and the corrupt public administration is unable to provide the most rudimentary social services. While the security situation in areas like Ituri is better, there is little progress in disarming militia groups in the Kivus, and new political tensions have come to the fore, in particular in the West, which voted heavily for the opposition. The government's use of force in Bas-Congo and the capital to crack down on its opponents instead of seeking a negotiated solution has entrenched animosity in those areas, creating the potential for further urban unrest and pockets of latent conflict.

The Kabila government has a strong mandate but the opposition, with the support of over a third of the electorate, has a role in building democracy which needs to be protected if Congo is to be stable. Despite late but commendable efforts to grant it more space in parliament, the opposition's capacity to play that role remains severely undermined by the recurrent use of force against its supporters and the exile of Jean-Pierre Bemba, the main challenger to President Kabila during the recent election. The opposition's virtual exclusion from governorships despite winning five provincial assembly elections is another sign of shrinking political pluralism. The constitutional requirement to set up strong local governments capable of providing accountability for management of 40 per cent of national tax revenues is also at risk.

To rebuild the state and augment its authority, the government must strengthen democracy or risk being paralysed by recurrent unrest, structural impotence and renewed instability in ever more parts of the country. Only a change of governance can provide the legitimacy and capacity to raise the revenues necessary to distribute peace dividends to all sectors of society.

The government still lacks the capacity to control the national territory. The main problems are well known: ill-disciplined, ill-equipped and often abusive security forces, continuing control by militias of large areas of the East and the risk of civil unrest and repressive violence in the West, where there is little government authority. The problems are closely intertwined: the weakness and partisanship of the security forces fuel popular resentment and allow militias to prosper. Creating a national, apolitical army out of the various armed groups and competent police able to handle urban disorder peacefully and provide genuine security is central to consolidating stability.

Donors have often treated security sector reform as purely technical but the governance and security challenges are inherently political and must be treated as such. The command structure, size and control of the security forces (in particular the 12,000-strong Presidential Guard) and the financial administration of the sector suffer from blatant political manipulation and pervasive, high-level corruption that have made real reform all but impossible. The logic of the transition was to buy peace by giving all signatories to the deal lucrative positions, an accommodation that came at the cost of continued impunity for human rights abuses and corruption and left intact patronage networks that permeate the state and army, undermining much-needed reforms.

The way forward lies in strengthening democratic governance. The government must allow the opposition and institutions - parliament, press and courts - to do their jobs. Reform requires genuine political will to tackle impunity by vetting police and army officers and making courts independent. The government also needs to live up to its promise to review mining and timber contracts and audit key sectors, including the army, state companies and the Central Bank. Donors must stay engaged, linking aid (over half the budget) to a political framework for a new partnership with Congo's institutions to deal with peacebuilding priorities.

RECOMMENDATIONS

To the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo:

Regarding Security

  1. Launch with the support of the UN Mission in Congo (MONUC) and in collaboration with parliament and provincial institutions a comprehensive peace initiative for the Kivus, emphasising diplomacy and dialogue more than military action, including:

    1. a diplomatic chapter addressing bilateral sources of tension, cross-border economic relations, the return of refugees and the restoration of full diplomatic relations with Rwanda and Uganda;

    2. a political chapter seeking lasting solutions to inter-communal tensions, addressing land security and promoting the role of provincial institutions to settle local political tensions;

    3. a security chapter, addressing small arms, army integration, disarmament, demobilisation and reinsertion (DDR) of militias and foreign armed groups;

    4. an economic chapter addressing local regulation of resource exploitation, including foreign investment and contracts signed during the war, and creation of an economic environment conducive to stabilisation of the provinces;

    5. a transitional justice chapter, addressing crimes committed by all sides during and after the war and the modalities of inter-communal reconciliation;

    6. an outreach campaign to inform and reassure the population about the peace initiative; and

    7. an action plan, drafted with MONUC, for integration of the mixed brigades and militia remnants.

  2. Ratify the Pact on Security, Stability and Development in the Great Lakes Region, re-open embassies in Kigali and Kampala and work jointly for resolution of the FDLR (Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda) and LRA (Lord's Resistance Army) threats from Congo territory.

  3. Prepare an army White Paper in consultation with parliamentarians, civil society and donors that includes provisions for a well-funded, independent oversight body and an ombudsman to register complaints about human rights violations, and allow parliament's defence and security commissions to monitor the implementation of reforms.

  4. Start the drawdown of the Presidential Guard to brigade size and the integration of its remaining personnel into the regular army rather than police.

  5. Open judicial inquiries into the killings of security and civilian personnel in Bas-Congo and Kinshasa in January and March 2007 and immediately suspend the commanding officers of the units involved.

Regarding Democracy

  1. Prepare a justice White Paper and introduce in parliament the organic laws envisaged in the constitution to establish the Constitutional Court and High Council of Justice and ensure judicial independence.

  2. Start negotiations and information sessions with provincial institutions over the transfer of competencies pursuant to the law on decentralisation, revenue sharing and establishment of an equalisation fund, and set up a permanent forum, including national and provincial government, parliament and civil society representatives, to talk through decentralisation issues instead of referring every problem to the Constitutional Court.

  3. Ensure that the required laws and regulations on decentralisation are swiftly adopted to minimise the risk of a legal vacuum during implementation of the decentralisation program and that parliament adopts the organic law on the new independent electoral commission so that it can start its sensitisation activities on the local elections before the end of 2007.

  4. Make public the findings and recommendations of the mining contracts review and maintain a moratorium on new forestry and mining concessions until a natural resources watchdog is put in place.

Regarding International Engagement

  1. Reassert desire to work with the international community; present new roadmaps for governance and security sector reforms at the next meetings of the Consultative Group and the Contact Group respectively; and establish a limited-membership forum, chaired by the prime minister and including parliament and civil society representatives, to address governance and security challenges with major donors.

To the Speaker of the National Assembly, the President of the Senate and Other Parliamentarians:

  1. Challenge the government to draw up comprehensive peace actions plans for the Kivus, Ituri, Maniema and Katanga and consult actively on this with MONUC.

  2. Initiate a consultative process with other branches of government and international representatives so as to guarantee security for the prompt return to Kinshasa of Senator Jean-Pierre Bemba.

  3. Ensure that the role of Coordinator of the opposition and the rights of opposition parties are respected, so that the legislative branch serves as an effective and responsible check on executive power.

  4. Press the government to improve management of natural resources, including by cancelling illegal contracts, and consider creation of a permanent watchdog for natural resource management.

To the UN Mission in Congo (MONUC):

  1. Engage the government and parliament in discussion of comprehensive peace action plans, especially for the Kivus, and condition support for operations of the national army (FARDC) on their implementation.

To the Governments of Rwanda and Uganda:

  1. Support Congolese efforts to prevent another Kivus crisis both bilaterally and in the Tripartite+ mechanism.

To France, the UK, the U.S., Belgium, South Africa, the EU, China and Other Major Donors:

  1. Condition aid on establishment of a new joint forum to address security and governance challenges, at which the international community should press for:

    1. comprehensive peace initiatives in the East, especially the Kivus;

    2. overcoming differences of approach on security sector reform; and

    3. full implementation of the law on the status of the opposition, early holding of free and fair local elections and consultation with all stakeholders to implement decentralisation effectively.

  2. Support government efforts to improve management of natural resources, including by requiring their companies to comply with Congolese and national law, such as the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, as well as the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions.

Kinshasa/Brussels, 5 July 2007

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