The Second Congo War and Its Consequences (cont.)
Evolution of the Second Congo War
HE SECOND CONGO WAR HAS CREATED an expensive balance of power in Central Africa. Up to now neither side has been able to defeat the other and both are expending huge percentages of their national resources and that of the DRC on military budgets. The war involves, to varying degrees of intensity, most of the African continent. This conflict can be analyzed on two levels; international and internal.
The International Effects of the Second Congo War
- Whereas the anti-Kabila alliance was restricted to Rwanda, Uganda, and to a lesser extent Burundi, (Ethiopia and Eritrea, which had given some support during the first Congo War, were now preoccupied fighting each other), the support for the Kinshasa government was very wide. Not only did Angola, Zimbabwe, and Namibia send substantial military contingents, but Sudan and Chad, allegedly with Libyan financial support, also participated militarily.
- SADC has been divided and to a considerable degree is in crisis because of events in the DRC. Under President Mugabes leadership, the DRCs recent membership was invoked as a reason why other members should come to the defense of the Kinshasa government. However, President Mandela sought compromise and a diplomatic solution to the conflict, and the South African government has given strong support to the process which produced the Lusaka Agreement.
- On both sides of the conflict, the foreign countries involved, especially those with military forces in the DRC, have translated their politico-military power into economic advantages. Thus, Rwanda and Uganda exploit the diamond, gold, and rare metal deposits in Eastern DRC; Angola created a joint venture for petroleum extraction in the Lower Congo and is involved in the massive diamond trade in Kasai; and Zimbabwe has gained considerable control over copper and cobalt extraction in Katanga.
- While seeking to make the war pay for itself with varying degrees of success, all the foreign powers involved are, nonetheless, motivated to seek an advantageous end to the conflict: first, because it does not come anywhere near to fully paying for itself; and second, because the governments of these states all face internal oppositions which are, or potentially will be, strengthened by the war. For example, the ex-FAR/Interahamwe have been strengthened by the fact that Kabila has mobilized them to fight the Rwandan government and the RCD. The military losses and negative economic consequences of the war in Zimbabwe have strengthened Mugabes internal opposition. Of course, wanting the war to end will not necessarily result in its ending since all the participants seek substantial, ongoing advantages.
- This is a very African war. There are no Cold War involvements. Even the much touted and much exaggerated conflict between the Francophones and the Anglo-Saxons (i.e., their African representatives) is not involved. If the DRC were to be considered the French side and the Rwandans/ Ugandans the English side, the line-up of allies does not fit. Zimbabwe and Namibia, both anglophone countries would end up being French, and Rwanda and Burundi, both francophone, would end up being English! Yet, there are persistent perceptions among many Africans that the war is linked to secret strategic plans by non-African powers with nefarious goals. Such views focus especially on the U.S. which is seen as the power behind Rwanda and Uganda, but there is in fact very little evidence for this. The strongest elements supporting this perception are the credits given to Rwanda and Uganda by the international financial institutions and the continuing concern with and guilt over the 1994 genocide in Rwanda in the U.S.
- The essentially African nature of the conflict has, unfortunately, led to an expansion of the notion, first represented by the Hutu-Tutsi conflict in Rwanda and Burundi, that this is a war between the Bantu and the Hamites or the Nilotics. Whereas there is no logical or scientific basis for such a view, (the terms are linguistic and there are Bantu speaking people who are viewed as Hamites and vice versa), the almost racial attitudes which these terms have aroused is creating a deep ideological chasm among Africans.
Internal Effects of the Second Congo War
The most important impact of the Second Congo War on internal affairs has been the massive loss of independence by all the Congolese political forces and a sharp decline in the standard of living of ordinary people. The forces in question can be described in a very summary fashion as involving the following tendencies:
- The official government of the DRC, i.e., Kabila and his immediate collaborators: Militarily and in many ways diplomatically, this force depends on the allies which have fought for its survival and triumph since August 1998. Kabila has also successfully mobilized the support of the Interahamwe/ex-FAR and has re-armed them. In addition, he has created an alliance with the Mai Mai rebels in the Kivus who are quite effective guerrilla fighters against the Rwandan/RCD forces in North and South Kivu.
- The non-violent opposition: It is unclear how much support the non-violent opposition retains. It should be noted that Tshisekedi, who is its most prominent leader, called for the retreat of foreign forces (i.e. mainly the Rwandans) at a time when Kabila was still dependent on them. This theme, then as now, echoed public sentiment. But today Kabila appears to have become the more dramatic symbol of the get the foreign troops out of our country sentiment. On the other hand, the non-violent opposition has succeeded in representing sentiments in favor of an all-Congolese, democratically arrived-at compromise.The most important institution, among the opposition groups, the UDPS, has a structure which has national extension. Thus, in the context of a national dialogue, it could emerge as a serious challenger and competitor to Kabila. Finally, the ethnic factor involved should not be forgotten. The UDPS is linked to the Kasai Luba and Kabila is linked to the Katangans. The Kasai Luba have a score to settle with the Katangans who expelled them in a massive ethnic cleansing exercise in 1993 from Katanga. Some of the personalities involved in this expulsion are close to Kabila. Perhaps more than other Congolese political or military force, the non-violent opposition has most to gain from the new political dispensation and national reconciliation arising from the inter-Congolese political negotiations which the Lusaka Agreement calls for. For that process to be truly neutral and successful a substantial UN presence will probably be absolutely necessary. Thus, this group as well as many NGOs are the strongest supporters of a dynamic, well organized and led UN mission.
- The RCD: It is significant that the RCD was formed after the FAC units in the east and Rwanda and Uganda moved against Kabila. Clearly, what these forces needed as in 1996 was a revolutionary movement with credibility among the Congolese and especially among those in the east who were under its control. As was noted earlier, the politicians and intellectuals who came together to form the RCD have extremely different, even opposed, backgrounds. They found it very difficult to gain acceptance by ordinary citizens in the areas they control and even less in the areas the Kabila regime controls. In the Kivus, local militia, the Mai Mai, almost immediately turned against them. In sum, the RCD was unable to shake off the appearance of being a front for the Rwandans and the Ugandans and given the rise of intense inter-communal hatreds, they were often seen as the stooges of the Tutsi. The RCD faced further difficulties; an internal division split the movement into RCD/Goma and RCD/ML (Mouvement de Liberation formerly identified as RCD/ Kisangani) and much acrimony developed between the two wings. In the context of this internal conflict it became evident that Uganda supported the RCD/ML led by Professor Ernest Wamba dia Wamba and Rwanda supported the RCD/Goma led by Dr. Emile Ilunga. This further exposed the degree to which these movements were dependent on their foreign sponsors, even though many of the leaders very genuinely opposed Kabila because they believed he was establishing a dictatorship. Finally, when the Ugandan and Rwandan armies fought against each other in Kisangani resulting in Congolese civilian casualties and much property destruction for reasons linked both to economic interests and to the competition between the two wings of the RCD, the Congolese nationalist credentials of both wings were further compromised.
- Mouvement pour la Liberation du Congo, MLC: Somewhat after the RCD was formed, a new anti-Kabila movement began which also received Ugandan support. However, the MLC had one serious advantage over the two RCDs: its leader originated from the northern area in which it was active and its support was largely regionally homogeneous. In effect, it is the only one of the three rebel movements which cannot be linked to any imagined or real Tutsi connection and it has been militarily successful in two ways; in the areas which it has conquered there do not appear to be any indigenous militia fighting it, and, this movement was responsible for the retreat of the Chadian troops which had operated out of Mobutus old palace at Gbadolite. The MLC is headed by Jean-Pierre Bemba whose father is one of the richest members of what used to be Mobutus inner circle. Today, the father, Bemba Saolona is one of Kabilas ministers.
All of the militarized, anti-Kabila movements mentioned above signed the Lusaka Agreement. However, neither the non-violent opposition nor the Mai-Mai, nor indeed any of the militia movements, were part of the Lusaka process or agreement.
Political Elites and the National Dialogue
One can wonder which, if any, of the leaders are likely to gain from the anticipated national dialogue which will presumably lead, at some time in the future, to elections. The two RCDs have failed to create broad grass roots organizations and, as mentioned earlier, they are tainted by their close collaboration with their foreign sponsors. The MLC operates in a sparsely populated area, can potentially be linked to Mobutism, and has, up to now, no grass roots support outside the area it controls with Ugandan help militarily. Kabilas popularity as a nationalist leader who stood up to foreign invasion has certainly risen as previously noted but once peace is re-established his authoritarian methods, his favoring people of Katangan origin, and the sharp decline in standards of living which has occurred in the last year would all place his leadership in some jeopardy.
Today, all the leaders (with the exception of those heading the non-violent opposition) do control the areas of the Congo which they and their foreign supporters have captured militarily and from which they draw substantial benefits. But there is one difference between the areas controlled by Kabila and those controlled by the two RCDs which should be emphasized; they both have internal oppositions but Kabilas is non-violent, whereas the two RCDs face the growing guerrilla attacks and power of the Mai Mai who increasingly cooperate with the Interahamwe. Therefore, while one has to wonder how flexible any of the leaders will be regarding the national dialogue, the RCDs may have a more pressing need to end the status quo than the Kinshasa regime. This is especially so if the national dialogue is linked to the UN presence and the disarming of militia groups.
Foreign Leaders and the Lusaka Agreement
If the leadership of the internal parties to the Second Congo War may turn out to be less than adequately compromising during the planned-for national dialogue, much the same can be expected from the foreign parties which, today, control different areas of the Congo. As is well known, these areas have become economic resources for these countries which help pay for their military investment and promise, in the future, to become important sources of revenue. The joint ventures between the Kabila regime and commercial interests of Angola and Zimbabwe have, up to now, not covered their military costs nor resulted in repayment of debts incurred by the Kinshasa authorities. Much the same is true for the foreign allies of the anti-Kabila forces. Uganda and Rwanda are the economic beneficiaries of their control over the diamond, gold, and precious metal exports which are mined in the zone they control. If the national dialogue and new political dispensation in the DRC which is called for in the Lusaka Agreement were to produce a new regime, it is a question whether the loans and special arrangements would continue to be honored or whether the mineral products of the eastern DRC would continue to flow through Kampala and Kigali.
Lusaka: The Internal Dialogue and the Role of the UN
The Lusaka Agreement places a great responsibility on the shoulders of two bodies: the neutral facilitator who will organize the internal dialogue which is supposed to produce a new political dispensation, and the UN which in collaboration with the OAU is supposed to apply Chapter 7 of the UN Charter and deploy a peacekeeping force to ensure implementation of the Agreement. Both these trajectories have registered some initial success but face tremendous obstacles.
The success regarding the internal dialogue is the apparent agreement by all the parties to appoint the ex-President of Botswana, Quett Masire, as the neutral facilitator. The major problem facing any further steps is the provision that the participants in the inter-Congolese political negotiations shall enjoy equal status. It is very doubtful that the Kabila regime will in practical terms really accept this provision, and conversely it is, at present, difficult to imagine that the rebel movements will accept to participate in this process if it, in effect, confirms the legitimacy of the Kinshasa authorities. It is, of course, a positive element that the Agreement explicitly calls for the inclusion of the political opposition (presumably meaning the political parties making up the non-violent opposition) and civil society. But the Mai Mai were neither represented at Lusaka nor are they mentioned as participants in the internal dialogue. This may well cause a serious problem in the Kivus.
The early success of the UNs involvement is the fact that the Joint Military Commission called for in the Agreement has been created and has started its work. Beyond that, there loom very serious problems both at the Secretariat headquarters in New York and in the DRC. In New York, the problems can be summarized as follows:
First, financial after Bosnia, Kosovo, Timor, and Sierra Leone, can the personnel and funds be found to mount what promises to be quite a huge operation in the DRC?
Second, while the Secretary General has selected a Special Representative for the DRC, the Security Council has only approved very limited terms of reference for the United Nations Organizations Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, MONUC.
Third, both of these factors are linked to the fear that the Congo Mission will turn out to be a failure and therefore further undermine the UN.
All of these considerations are of course rendered more difficult by the attitude and declarations of the Kabila regime. The DRC Foreign Minister, Yerodia Ndombasi has not only charged the UN with wanting to overthrow Kabila but also with having an assassin among its observers who is supposed to kill him! Moreover, the Kinshasa authorities have placed many obstacles in the path of the first UN observer mission to have arrived in the DRC. While these decisions will probably be ironed out, they reveal an attitude in Kinshasa which is not likely to disappear.
Background to Anti-UN Sentiments
If the UN is to play a major role in resolving the war which has pitted almost ten African states and innumerable militia groups against each other in Central Africa, that participation must be based on a realistic assessment of the willingness of the conflicting parties to make peace and an understanding on how a UN peacekeeping mission will be perceived in the area. The Lusaka Agreement is a framework which allows the parties to establish peace if that is what they want. But to understand the role the UN can play one must look back at its institutional history in the Central African area. If one does not do that, then the distrust expressed by the above cited declarations will not be understood or put into context, and then the relationships the UN will develop will be doomed from the start.
There is an extraordinary and unfortunate coincidence in the negative experience which three of the major players in the Central African drama have had with the UN. The most recent and most easily explained is that of the Rwandan Tutsi and their sense of having been abandoned to their genocidal fate by the UN and the major powers. The other two players are the Lumumbists and the Katangans the two most prominent forces in the Kabila regime and to explain their antagonism and distrust, one has to return to the 1960s.
NEXT: Part III Belgian Colonial Rule and the Independence Struggle: A Bit of History