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Democratic Republic of Congo

Now is the time for peace in DRC

Ever since 1999, following a cease-fire agreement for the Democratic Republic of Congo, there seems to be no permanent settlement to the war. The recent demands made by Rwandan President Paul Kagame to disarm the Interahamwe militia offer no solution.
Benedict Tembo

Just when everybody thought the icing was going to be put on the cake to end to the four-year-old civil war, Rwandan President Paul Kagame demanded the disarming of the Interahamwe militia before he would completely pull out his troops from the DRC.

At a one-day Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit on the DRC in Lusaka on April 3, Kagame said the militias in the DRC should be disarmed so that attacks on his country could be curtailed.

Kagame said inter-Congolese dialogue was an important aspect of attaining a broad-based government, which would not allow foreign forces to use the DRC as a launching pad for attacks on other countries.

Kagamefactions in the DRC had pulled out of the former Zaire.

Ngongi said it was the intention of the United Nations Organisation Mission in the Congo (MONUC) to ensure that belligerents in the DRC would have been completely disengaged by April 6, 2002 to give the peace process new life.

He appealed for renewed co-operation so that Phase 111 of the deployment of MONUC staff is implemented. Ngongi was worried about the reported cease-fire violation in Muliro. "We wish to encourage the parties to the conflict to rise to the occasion and bring peace to the people of DRC because they have suffered a lot". He further said that, " parties to the conflict should address the issues of security in the DRC because if there is peace, Central Africa will move forward.

The foreign countries that sent troops into DRC to assist their preferred factions are Namibia, Angola, Zimbabwe, Uganda, and Rwanda. The last two countries were backing rebels trying to topple the government of Laurent Kabila before he was assassinated.

Seemingly responding to Kagame's demands, which the SADC cannot implement immediately, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) urged belligerents in the DRC to put the interest of the people of their country above partisan aspirations. OAU assistant Secretary-General, Said Djinnit, said the parties to the DRC conflict should realise that no problems were insurmountable if the interest of the country were considered paramount.

He said this at Mulungushi International Conference Centre in Lusaka at the one-day SADC summit on the DRC. Djinnit said that the belligerents in the DRC should honour their obligation by compromising on issues of national interest. The OAU representative urged the parties attending the summit to find a solution to problems delaying peace in the DRC.

Djinnit said the OAU will continue to support the peace process in the DRC until peace was achieved. Earlier, Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa advised the parties to the conflict in the DRC not to take the goodwill of co-operating partners for granted.

At the opening of the one-day summit, Mwanawasa said that, although friends could give moral and financial support, the responsibility for ensuring a successful dialogue to end the four-year old war fell squarely on the Congolese parties themselves.

He was referring to the cease-fire violations that had impeded progress on completion of the disengagement and the redeployment of forces, the deployment of the MONUC peacekeepers under Phase 111, and the disruption of the on-going inter-Congolese dialogue.

Other areas of concern are: slow progress in implementing the plans for disarmament, demobilisation, repatriation, resettlement and reintegration of armed forces; and the delay in completing the process of the withdrawal of foreign forces.

"Time and again it has been said that we are operating in a world of competing demands where African problems are always relegated to the bottom of the list," said Mwanawasa. "On occasions, we have also stated that we should not at any time take for granted the international goodwill that has been extended since the cease-fire agreement was signed two-and-a-half years ago."

Mwanawasa said all parties to the conflict in the DRC should co-operate with the MONUC so that its deployment of the peacekeeping mission under the Phase 111 is expedited and their free movement is facilitated.

He said the factions should bear in mind that the people of Congo had been waiting for peace with bated breath for a positive outcome of the Sun City talks, which started about 37 days ago and ended on April 12, 2002.

"It is for this reason that I wish to call upon this summit to recommend measures such as a contingent programme of action that will address outstanding issues after the Sun City talks," Mwanawasa said. "This should include fulfilling our pledged contribution in addition to the mobilisation of new resources for the completion of various tasks."

He said that continued instability in the DRC perpetuated the suffering of the Congolese people, also retarding development in Zambia and the Sub-Saharan region. He noted that Zambia will remain committed to peace and stability, especially since that the country was the chairman of the Organisation of the African Unity (OAU).

He also recognised the tireless efforts of DRC Inter-Congolese Facilitator Sir Ketumire Masire, whom he said had ensured that dialogue among the belligerents was sustained. He appealed to the Congolese parties and the international community to give the necessary support for the peace process.

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