American Diplomacy
Commentary and Analysis

August 2000

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Chaos in the Congo
Contents of this article

Part I

 • Africa's First Continental War
 • The Lusaka Agreement

The War’s Origins
 • The Tutsi genocide in Rwanda and its Consequences
 • The Motivations of the Anti-Mobutu Alliance
 • The Early Kabila Regime—May 1997 to August 1998
 • The Kabila Regime and Foreign Affairs

The Second Congo War and Its Consequences
 • The Start of the Second Congo War
 • Comparing the Two Congo Wars
 • Evolution of the Second Congo War
 • Lusaka: The Internal Dialogue and the Role of the UN

Belgian Colonial Rule and the Independence Struggle: A Bit of History
 • The Katangans
 • The Congo Rebellions-Revolution

 • Peace
 • Status Quo
 • War
 • The Regional Elements
 • The Future



Herman J. Cohen, an old 'Congo hand' and former assistant secretary of state for Africa, observes that "in a continent that is lagging further and further behind the rest of the world in economic development, this latest tragedy makes one wonder how and when Africa will finally hit bottom and start moving upward again."
(Agony in the Congo)

Congo Military Zones

Click to open map of Political-Military zones in separate screen.

Special Report:
The State of American Diplomacy

William C. Harrop, a distinguished retired U.S. ambassador and former Inspector General, warns of the risks and offers succinct guidelines for the next U.S. President: "The Department of State apparently does not intend to pursue [several] urgently needed reforms. It is critical that the next administration vigorously carry out the modernization of its diplomatic infrastructure." (The Infrastructure of American Diplomacy)

FSO Stephanie S. Kinney, in an unsettling independent research study, finds that "as institutions, neither the Department of State nor the Foreign Service is ready to meet the challenges to American diplomacy foreseen between now and 2010." She proposes some fundamental remedies. (Developing Diplomats for 2010: If Not Now, When?)

Anthony Quainton, a former director general of the Foreign Service, issues a strong call for greater recognition in the Presidential election campaign of the need for stronger and healthier diplomacy: "The costs of diplomatic failure are high." (What ever happened to Diplomacy?)


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War and Peace in the
Democratic Republic of the Congo

Conclusions  •

CENTRAL AFRICA, AND PARTICULARLY the DRC, stands at a crossroads facing three alternative paths: peace, status quo, or renewed conflict and expanded war.


A complex road map for peace has been charted by the Lusaka Agreement. It will be very difficult to fulfill for the following principal reasons:

  1. It calls for an Article 7 UN Peacekeeping Mission, but there is a big question whether a force large enough to accomplish the assigned tasks can be mustered especially if casualties are to be expected. And it is difficult to see how such a Mission can be expected to reach the Agreement’s goals without at least some violent encounters.

  2. It calls on all parties to disarm and dismantle militias who may very well resist such a prospect. Some of these militias are well armed and powerful. It is, for instance, difficult to imagine the DRC Government disarming and dismantling the ex-FAR/Interahamwe fighters it has only recently armed and reorganized. Will the Peacekeeping Mission undertake this task? And at what cost?

  3. It calls for an inter-Congolese national dialogue which is to include the Government of the DRC, the RCD, the MLC, the non-violent opposition, and Civil Society. They are to negotiate while enjoying “equal status.” It is hard to imagine Kabila negotiating on that basis. Would that mean that he would (temporarily at least) abandon the prerogatives of Head of State?

  4. It calls on all foreign armies to withdraw from the DRC. That will mean that the substantial benefits which states, officers, and political leaders from the countries with armies in the DRC have been able to obtain will have to be abandoned. Will the achievement of peace be a sufficient incentive to accept such losses?

Status Quo

The Lusaka Agreement established a cease-fire which has, more or less, held. Putting it that way may be placing the cart before the horse. A stalemate had developed and all the major players in this war appear to have realized that victory was not — at least in the near future — likely. Therefore, the great amount of international pressure for an agreement to stop the war finally reached receptive ears and as a result the Lusaka Agreement came about. As has been indicated earlier in this article, for some parties the current status quo is not necessarily a bad condition. The Congolese leaders in question control territory and wealth and all have foreign supporters. An end to the status quo may well end the political careers of some of them.

Much the same can be said about the foreign powers with armies in the DRC. At present, they are able to benefit from the DRC’s riches even as the occupation — because of the cease-fire — costs less than before. For them, too, there are dangers in a real settlement. For instance, can Rwanda and Uganda be certain that respect for their borders and sovereignty — which is called for in the Lusaka Agreement for all states — would last if a reunited DRC is, in the future, led by leaders who remember the Congolese humiliation at being occupied by their “small” neighbors?

Thus, if the difficulties and dangers of the Lusaka Agreement should result in its abandonment or fulfillment but at a snail’s pace, the status quo may well continue for some time. This would prevent almost all rebuilding and development. It would profoundly offend the ordinary Congolese who desperately seek the reunification of their country and the departure of foreign troops. Yet, it is not an entirely unlikely scenario in the coming months or even years.


A renewal of war on a serious scale is dependent on one or the other party deciding that it has a reasonable chance to win. The military conditions which produced the stalemate which in turn produced Lusaka may either objectively, or subjectively as viewed by some of the leaders, change. The conditions which could produce such a change are, unfortunately, broadly present. First, there is the question of military hardware. Numerous news items and rumors indicate that substantial arms deliveries have been negotiated on all sides. Second, there is the question of military training. In this respect, the Kinshasa authorities were at a real disadvantage. The FAC was a new army which had barely started to function when the Second Congo War began. Moreover, its best units had been sent to the east to fight the Mai Mai and the Interahamwe, and it was those units which sided with Rwanda and Uganda in the attempt to unseat Kabila. However, since then, Kabila has apparently put a great deal of effort into recruiting and training his army. The result may have an impact on the balance of power. Or, he and his officers may think it will have an impact and on the basis of that view attempt to reconquer lost territory. Furthermore, there is always the possibility that the rebel side, seeing the development of the FAC, decide that their best defense would be a renewed attack.

In short, renewed fighting on an expanded basis is not to be excluded.

The Regional Elements

Yet another obstacle to peace in the DRC must be raised. The question is whether it is possible to achieve the goals set by the Lusaka Agreement without, at the same time or even preliminarily, solving the conflicts in some of the neighboring states. How, for instance, is real peace to be achieved in the Kivus if Rwandan, Ugandan, and Burundian insurgency movements continue to use Congolese territory as rear bases? How can the Lusaka process go forward if UNITA and the Angolan Army fight each other on Congo soil? Of course, if all these movements are designated as “militias” to be disarmed, then this particular problem would be solved, but what military force is going to disarm them all?

The suggestion has been made, by France among others, that a regional conference presumably going beyond the regional implications of the Lusaka Agreement could come to a global resolution. Unless the international community is willing to invest the type of force, money, and interest in Central Africa that it has been able to commit to Timor, Bosnia, and Kosovo, it is doubtful that such a conference would succeed. One need only look at the time and effort which has been invested in the Arusha process to deal with Burundi in order to conclude that joining all the problems of all the states in the region is unlikely to magically produce peace.

The Future

This analysis does not conclude on a very optimistic note. The current problems should not distort one’s view of what is ultimately likely to develop. The Congolese people have gained a real sense of their national identity from the trials and tribulations through which they have been forced to live. No significant body of opinion wants anything else than a single Congolese state. Despite the virtual collapse of education and employment opportunities in many if not most parts of the country, public opinion has again and again been seen to support a compromise and inclusion — in short, a democratic solution. The disaffection of the public from most of the visible political leaders is due to the fact that in one way or another they have closed the door to open participation. This picture of a politically aware people seeking basic freedoms and an opportunity to rebuild — modest goals which have been denied for decades — has its blemishes. The expulsion of the Luba from Katanga, though manipulated by a Mobutist governor, found a receptive audience among the Lubumbashi population. The hatred expressed against Congolese Tutsi and their very unresolved future fate in the DRC is another example of intolerance. But given half a chance the Congolese public would respond positively to a pluralistic social agenda.

CONTINUE READING WEISS : 1 • 2 3 • 4 • 5 • 6 • 7 • 8  

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