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Transition is failing, monitoring groups warn

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NAIROBI, 14 Apr 2005 (IRIN) - Two groups of international experts analysing the transitional peace process in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which is set to end with national elections in June, have said the country could instead descend to another war.

"As it approaches the end of its second year, the Congo's transition risks breaking apart," the International Crisis Group (ICG) said in a report issued on 30 March.

The other report, issued on Thursday by the Forum on Early Warning and Early Response (FEWER), said the DRC's various political groups were negotiating and behaving with the "logic of conflict."

These forecasts are in contrast to recent news that the DRC's central government and the UN Mission in the DRC, known as MONUC, were bringing the troubled northeastern district of Ituri under control.

On Thursday, MONUC said more than 10,000 militiamen in Ituri had been disarmed. In the last few weeks, the government has been announcing arrests of various leaders of militia groups in the district.

However, the FEWER and ICG reports indicated that the main risk to the transition was from the eastern provinces of North and South Kivu.

Various armed groups there have been fighting since February 2004, though the area is "the birthplace of both wars that ravaged the country in the past decade," ICG said.

As with past conflicts, the current crises centre around the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups, ICG said, but with a new twist. Neighbouring Rwanda and the former rebel Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie-Goma (RCD-Goma), which remains militarily powerful in the Kivus, "have created a new Rwandophone identity in order to fuse Congolese Hutu and Tutsi together, while President [Joseph] Kabila's party has roused anti-Rwandan sentiment."

FEWER linked the problems in the Kivus to the electoral process, which, it said, risked "mobilising voters along established ethnic cleavages". Political groups in the transition have little interest in the elections succeeding, FEWER said, particularly RCD-Goma, which "is the most likely to lose a large proportion of current political power if the elections do take place,"

FEWER's senior analyst who wrote the report, Peter Sampson, said, "Those with most to lose politically are most likely to now seek power militarily."

Similarly, the ICG said key members of the transitional government were weak and opportunistic.

"Many stand to lose power in the elections, and they are set on prolonging or disrupting the transition," ICG said. "This political weakness at the centre has allowed military conflicts to fester on the periphery."

The two reports were critical of the international community's efforts to support the transitional process. FEWER said donors were mostly interested in holding an election, which, "without accompanying institutional developments, is likely to provoke more conflict in the DRC".

ICG said neither MONUC nor the wider international community were doing enough to rein in "the spoilers in the transitional government, who work against unification of the army and administration".

"A promising first step," ICG said, was that Angola, Belgium and South Africa were beginning to train the new army of the DRC.

However, Sampson said Belgium, which was taking the lead in retraining the army, so far only had 367 trainers in the DRC.

"Are they are meant to train all 300,000 combatants?" he said.

NAIROBI, 14 Apr 2005 (IRIN) - Two groups of international experts analysing the transitional peace process in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which is set to end with national elections in June, have said the country could instead descend to another war.

"As it approaches the end of its second year, the Congo's transition risks breaking apart," the International Crisis Group (ICG) said in a report issued on 30 March.


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