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The Role of the International Community

Southern African Development Community

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) tried to spearhead the regional peace efforts in a war that drew three of its member states to the side of its beleaguered member, the Congo. Zimbabwe, Angola, and Namibia proved ineffective in pressing the Congolese government to comply with the 1999 Lusaka cease-fire agreement at a SADC summit meeting on August 7, and again on August 14 at a summit of the parties to the agreement.

United Nations

The Security Council in an August 6, 1999 resolution authorized the deployment for three months of ninety U.N. military liaison personnel to the capitals of the belligerent states. Their mission was to establish contact with the Joint Military Commission formed by the belligerents to police the implementation of the truce. From January 24 to 26, the council held intensive deliberations on the Congolese crisis attended by seven African heads of state. This prepared the ground for Security Council resolution 1291, extending the mandate of the United Nations Observer Mission in the DRC (MONUC) to August 31, and authorizing its expansion to include a 500-strong military observer force plus another 5,537 troops for logistical and security backup. The council authorized the mission to take action to protect U.N. personnel and infrastructure, and civilians facing imminent threats of attack, and on October 13 extended its mandate to December 15.

While the ground was laid for a peacekeeping mission to the Congo soon after the parties agreed to disengage, the U.N. showed less resolve in moving to the deployment phase, principally blaming the parties to the conflict for failing to live up to their commitments. MONUC also encountered other crippling hurdles, as it was starved of resources, and member states were slow in pledging troops for it.

A Security Council mission to the region in early May pressed for the full cooperation and support of the belligerents for MONUC as a condition for its deployment, but at the time of writing these conditions had not been met. The council on June 16 demanded that Rwanda and Uganda "which have violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity" of the DRC, withdraw their forces from Congolese territory, and that the other parties to the conflict adhere to the timetable of the cease-fire agreement. The council also declared that Rwanda and Uganda should make reparations for the loss of life and property in Kisangani during their clashes there.

Roberto Garreton, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights for the DRC, visited the country from August 13 to 26 at the invitation of the government. Leaders of the Liberation Movement for the Congo (MLC) and the mainstream RCD-Goma faction also received the special rapporteur in their respective headquarters of Gbadolite and Goma. In a powerful message to the RCD, the rapporteur inaugurated a workshop for the training of human rights monitors in which participants from several rebel-controlled cities were able to take part. The U.N. human rights high commissioner's field office in DRC, and its branch office in Goma, played active roles in monitoring the human rights situation in government and rebel areas. Solidarity with and support for the beleaguered Congolese human rights movement was an important aspect of the commission's interventions, in addition to its advocacy role with government and rebel authorities.

European Union

Provided that the signatories respected their own accord, the European Union remained committed to supporting the implementation of the Lusaka Agreement, promising assistance for the resettlement of the war displaced, fostering national reconciliation in the DRC, and supporting the country's rehabilitation plans. Indicative of this stance was the E.U.'s August boycott of the opening ceremony of the DRC's Constituent and Legislative Assembly on the grounds that the institution was not compatible with the national dialogue provided for by the Lusaka Agreement.

At a meeting with Ugandan government officials in mid-May, during which donors were due to confirm pledges they made during the Donor Consultative Group meeting in Kampala in March, the E.U. warned that the conflict between Uganda and Rwanda in Kisangani could jeopardize donors' budgetary support for both countries. In addition to the demand that the two countries end the situation they created in Kisangani, the E.U. appeared to make Uganda's compliance with the Lusaka Agreement a condition for the release of its budgetary support to the country.

A meeting of E.U. foreign ministers in Brussels in May decided to increase the E.U.'s economic assistance to the DRC and Burundi as an incentive for the peace processes there. However, the ministers failed to reach a consensus on the imposition of an arms embargo on the Great Lakes region, with some member states arguing that any such embargo would always be violated. This left member states with only the June 1999 E.U.'s presidential statement, which called on them to strictly adhere to the E.U.'s own Code of Conduct on Arms Exports and recalled that, under the E.U. code, countries agree not to authorize arms exports that might "aggravate existing tensions or armed conflicts in the country of final destination" or risk fueling human rights abuses. The Great Lakes and Central Africa region qualified for a strict imposition of an arms embargo under these guidelines.

Uganda's involvement in recruiting and training thousands of Congolese children, and in deploying them to battlefronts in their own country, completely escaped the attention of the European Parliament when it passed its strong July 6 resolution condemning the use of child soldiers by rebels in Uganda. The parliament strongly condemned the abduction and induction of children by the Lord's Resistance Army, andSudan's role in supporting that rebel group, and called on the E.U. Commission to support rehabilitation efforts of demobilized children in Uganda.

United States

The U.S. repeatedly strongly supported the implementation of the Lusaka Agreement and the deployment of MONUC, as well as the convening of the Inter-Congolese Dialogue. In February, President Clinton lauded the Lusaka agreement, saying that "[i]t is more than a cease-fire; it is a blueprint for building peace. Best of all, it is a genuinely African solution to an African problem." The U.S. at the same time strove to reconcile its mediation effort with the preservation of its privileged relations with Rwanda and Uganda and its broader objective of containing President Kabila. An August 16 Department of State release exposed the inherent contradictions of the approach, asserting that "[e]xcept for the Congolese government, all parties to the conflict have affirmed their collective desire to put in place the conditions for the full implementation of the Lusaka Agreement." True, the Kabila government at the time publicly said it refused to abide by the agreement and obstructed the Inter-Congolese Dialogue. The government also denied MONUC permission to land at Mbandaka, and to deploy observers to Mbuji Mayi. However, the MLC and RCD rebels mirrored that refusal by blocking the mission's access to certain areas under their respective control. The highly publicized withdrawal of Ugandan troops from Kisangani in June was in turn followed by the airlifting of sizable Ugandan reinforcements to shore up the MLC against a punishing government offensive. The State Department statement only strengthened the perception in the region that U.S. policy was far from evenhanded.

The U.S. defined its interests in the DRC as the upholding of regional stability, and the prevention of the resurgence of genocide and mass killings in Central Africa. In testimony before the House Subcommittee on Africa of the International Relations Committee on February 15, Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., narrowly equated the prevention of genocide with the neutralization of the former Rwandan Army (ex-FAR) and Interahamwe militia, who were implicated in the 1994 Rwandan genocide and remained at large in eastern Congo. A more objective reading of the situation in the region, by Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues David Scheffer, later identified other actors involved in perpetrating war crimes there. Scheffer led a government team on an August 24-27 trip to Kinshasa, Kisangani, Goma, and Butembo in eastern Congo to investigate allegations of such crimes. According to an August 29 Department of State statement, Scheffer's team collected information that pointed to violations of international humanitarian law by armed groups supplied by the RCD government, Congolese rebel movements, and the armies of the Rwandan and Ugandan governments. Such strong findings put to a real test the U.S. rhetorical commitment to justice for victims of rampant violence in the Congo and its stated determination to take concrete steps to end the culture of impunity prevailing in the region. Secretary Albright gave an eloquent example of such pledges when she vowed before the Security Council during the "Month of Africa" on January 24 "[t]here is no rationale of past grievance, political allegiance or ethnic difference that excuses murder, torture, rape or other abuse. Here, today, together, we must vow to halt these crimes and to bring those who commit them to justice under due process of law." Months later, there was little progress to this end in the Congo.

The U.S. maintained a modest level of economic assistance to the DRC in FY 2000: U.S. $10 million in development aid through NGOs; $13 million in humanitarian assistance; $15 million in food aid; and $3 million under the Great Lakes Justice Initiative. The U.S. contributed an additional $1 million for the Joint Military Commission, and reserved an additional $1 million for the Inter-Congolese Dialogue. Although it would commit no troops to MONUC, the U.S. government made significant financial contributions to the mission, totaling an estimated 25 percent of the total U.N. cost of $164 million in FY 2000, and an estimated 25 percent of the mission's budget for FY 2001 which stood at $378 million at this writing.

Relevant Human Rights Watch Reports:

Eastern Congo Ravaged: Killing Civilians and Silencing Protest, 5/00

Human Rights Watch World Report 2000

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