American Diplomacy
Commentary and Analysis

August 2000

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War and Peace in the
Democratic Republic of the Congo

Chaos in the Congo
Congo Military Zones

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

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



Postscript (January 2000)  •

ECENT EVENTS HAVE BEEN marked by more intense attention given to the war in the DRC and the connected Central African conflicts. This is partly the result of the commitment which Ambassador Holbrooke, the U.S. delegate to the United Nations, has made to place Africa at the head of the priorities to be handled by the Security Council in January when he presided over the Council. This increased U.S. interest in the war, which has been relatively limited up to the present, has resulted in pressure to move the Lusaka process forward — since it had almost stalled. The first concrete result has been agreement by all parties to naming former President of Botswana, Quett Masire, as the “neutral facilitator” who will organize the internal dialogue called for in the Lusaka Agreement. Ambassador Holbrooke has also invited the presidents of the conflicting states to come to the UN for a full debate on how peace can be achieved.

Other developments which may lower the level of conflict can be pointed to:

     1. Negotiations between Sudan and Uganda aimed at re-establishing diplomatic relations and seeking peace in the region. If this leads to concrete results, one may expect Sudanese support for Ugandan insurgency movements — some with bases in the DRC — to decline.

     2. Some negotiations between Rwanda and Zimbabwe have been reported. They may only concern some Zimbabwean soldiers who are surrounded by Congolese rebels at Ikela, but they could possibly signify bilateral talks aimed at reducing confrontations.

     3. The three rebel movements — RCD/Goma, RCD-ML, and MLC — have met twice in order to coordinate their political and military positions and to define common policies in anticipation of the internal dialogue. This move will in all probability strengthen their position vis-à-vis the international community and Kabila. Only time will tell whether this furthers the prospects for a peaceful resolution of the Second Congo War. But given the fact that these movements had in the past months confronted each other — along with their external supporters, Rwanda and Uganda — not only with words but also with arms, their cooperating now, with the blessing of both Rwanda and Uganda, can be seen as a positive development.

     4. Finally, while the time schedule foreseen in the Lusaka Agreement has not been even remotely respected, none of the signatories has formally rejected it. The Agreement has become the road map toward peace.

The other side of this balance sheet must, however, also be looked at, and there are several developments in recent weeks which have extended the principle “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” and have reduced the prospects for peace.

1. The UN peacekeeping force which is called for in the Lusaka Agreement is far from being deployed. In this respect, the war in the DRC is being treated very differently than those in former Yugoslavia or Timor.

2. In the Kivus, conditions continue to deteriorate badly. The Mai Mai, who were not invited to Lusaka and have rejected the Agreement, appear to grow in strength. There are credible reports that they are being supported by the Kinshasa authorities. Further, they appear to be cooperating with the ex-FAR and Interahamwe as well as the Burundian Conseil National pour la Defense de la Democratie (CNDD) the Hutu militia who have rejected the Arusha negotiations and have continued to fight.

3. Zimbabwe,is reported to have undertaken talks with CNDD representatives and to have promised support. Since the CNDD is cooperating with anti-RCD movements, and the RCD is the enemy of the Kabila regime which is supported by Zimbabwe, there is a logic to this new extension of the principle “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”; but the impact of this development certainly undermines the prospects of both Lusaka for the DRC and Arusha for Burundi. Moreover, strengthening the CNDD will make President Mandela’s role as mediator in Burundi more difficult.

4. The balance of power in Angola appears to have swung in the Government’s favor, with the result that its forces have pursued UNITA inside both the DRC and Namibia. These border crossings were accomplished with the agreement of the respective governments but at considerable cost to the local populations. However, Angolan forces also appear to be massed on the Zambian border with the possible prospect of clashes with Zambian forces.

5. There continues to be little indication that the Kabila regime is willing to participate in the internal dialogue on the basis of equality with other elements of Congolese society or to accept political pluralism. Both the armed and non-violent oppositions are placing a great deal of hope in the Lusaka process, but it is still unclear to what degree Kinshasa is willing to play by those rules.

6. Kinshasa’s concern and emphasis have been on the departure of “aggressor” forces, i.e. Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi. Rwandan withdrawal is probably dependent on its being satisfied that the Interahamwe have been disarmed and disbanded, and for the moment it is difficult to envision how, when, and by whom this will be accomplished.

In a word, war is still very much present, and peace is still only a hope. In the meantime hundreds of thousands of internally displaced civilian Congolese suffer endless afflictions, from hunger to rape to massacres.


Published by permission of the author and the Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, Uppsala, Sweden.

**Herbert F. Weiss is Emeritus Professor of Political Science at the City University of New York and Research Scholar at the Institute of African Studies, Columbla Univorsity. He has been a student of political developments in the Congo since 1959. His study of the independenee struggle, Political Protest in the Congo, won the Herskovits Prize of the Afneen Studics Association (U.S.) and was recently re-published in French under the title Radicalisme Rural et Lutte pour l’Independence au Congo-Zaire. Protessor Weiss has been a consultant of the United Nations, USAID, and various NGOs dealing with the Congo and, more generally, with democratization and elections in Africa. ~ Ed.

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