Congo: Bringing Peace to North Kivu
Africa Report N°133
31 October 2007
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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS
North Kivu is again a crucible of conflict in Congo. Since fighting resumed between the insurgents of Laurent Nkunda and the national army in December 2006, over 370,000 civilians have been displaced in the province. Due to the failure of the latest attempt to integrate Nkunda's troops into the army, the crisis has become much worse since May 2007. UN attempts to impose a ceasefire and appoint a special envoy to mediate have failed. President Joseph Kabila's 15 October decision to suspend offensive operations and his subsequent call on all Congolese armed groups in the region to present themselves for disarmament or army integration is welcome but fighting continues, and there is no real dialogue with Nkunda. A comprehensive initiative needs to be launched urgently to de-escalate the crisis and address the root causes of the conflict.
This new crisis results from failures of the Congo peace process on army integration, economic governance and transitional justice. During the second half of the political transition – which formally ended with the election of President Kabila and a new legislature in 2006 – a policy of containment, appeasement, and international emphasis on the holding of elections cooled tensions but left their causes unaffected. The province remained in effect split into two pieces, with Masisi and Rutshuru territories caught in a cold war between dissidents from the former Rwandan-backed rebel group, the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD), and the national army (FARDC). Little progress was made on disarmament and reintegration of Mai Mai militias or repatriation of the Rwandan Hutu (FDLR) rebels. The illegal exploitation of natural resources continued unabated as all communities armed, animated by deep mutual resentments over land security, mass human rights abuses during the war and control of natural resources.
The 2006 national and provincial elections liquidated politically the RCD. Strengthened by his election, Kabila held discreet talks with Nkunda, facilitated by Rwanda, and concluded an agreement for the progressive integration of Nkunda's troops into the regular armed forces, a process locally known as mixage, with the understanding that they would not have to leave the province until the general security situation improved significantly. But neither Nkunda nor Kabila was able to contain their hardliners opposed to the settlement.
Afraid to become the victims of revenge killings and lose everything they had illegally acquired during the war, Goma-based Tutsi leaders accused Nkunda of betrayal and threatened to stop supporting him. Kabila's hardliners attacked him over the perceived preferential treatment given to the Tutsi in the army integration process and used the public outcry over the massive human rights violations and displacement of civilians caused by the operations against the FDLR to undermine the agreement's legitimacy. Mixage collapsed in May 2007, leading to new escalation.
So far, the crisis has not jumped the border to draw in Rwanda. Both Kinshasa and Kigali have shown restraint and chosen to continue with regular consultations. However, on the ground, there is combat; the humanitarian situation is appalling; neither side has a good prospect of military success; and escalation continues to carry the risk of destabilisation of the wider region.
To compensate for the national army's weakness, Kabila has been trying to co-opt the UN mission (MONUC) into his operations, a move the UN should continue to resist lest it be caught in the crossfire between Nkunda and the FDLR. The international community should encourage Kabila to suspend his military offensive and launch a comprehensive peace initiative for North Kivu, aimed first at de-escalating the conflict and improving the general security environment in the province, then addressing the core issues related to restoration of state authority such as regulation of the exploitation of natural resources, return of refugees and a transitional justice process facilitating community reconciliation. A prolonged deadlock would inevitably result in further displacement of civilians and increased risk of ethnic cleansing and revenge killing on both sides.
Over the past three years, ending the North Kivu conflict has been repeatedly postponed in favour of efforts to consolidate the transition and secure Kabila's election. But North Kivu has been the epicentre of Congo's violence since the conflict began more than fifteen years ago. Now is the time to address this major gap in the Congolese transition and end a crisis which is producing immense suffering and continues to carry wider risks for Congo and its neighbours.
To the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo:
De-escalating the crisis and improving security
1. Suspend offensive action against Nkunda's troops, adopt a containment strategy and appoint a respected senior military officer to lead a special task force (made up of officers from the Military Integration Structure (SMI) and National Disarmament Program (PNDDR), as well as MONUC military observers) to discuss with Nkunda's representatives modalities for assembling his troops in designated areas of Masisi and Rutshuru territories under MONUC supervision.
2. Proceed, with MONUC, to establish a weapons-free zone, disarm new militias and former members of the Local Defence Forces (LDF), conduct operations to reassure internally displaced persons (IDPs) and secure mines and trade routes that are the Mai Mai and FDLR's main revenue sources.
3. Discipline rogue national army (FARDC) and Mai Mai (PARECO and FAPL) combatants engaged in active collaboration with the FDLR and inciting ethnic hatred against Tutsi communities.
4. Revive the joint verification mechanism with Rwanda and patrol the border intensively with MONUC to deter the infiltration of armed elements and illegal immigration into the province.
5. Develop a plan with Rwanda and MONUC to isolate and capture the genocidaire leaders among the FDLR and offer resettlement in the Congo or reintegration into the Rwandan army to those who were not involved in the genocide and are willing to demobilise.
6. Hold a roundtable with local communities, provincial authorities and national representatives to set clear guidelines for the allocation of posts within the provincial administration, to map out a consensual process for the disarmament of all communities and to adopt a code of conduct for political activities in the province.
Dealing with root causes
7. Establish a land commission, composed of provincial authorities and representatives of all communities, mandated to review title deeds and recommend practical measures for the redistribution and re-allocation of estates and ranches in Masisi and Rutshuru so as to reinstall/reinsert landless IDPs and refugees, improve inter-communal relations and prevent renewed disputes.
8. Negotiate and implement with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Rwanda a tripartite agreement for repatriation of Congolese refugees from Rwanda, including a nationality verification process and issuance of voter cards to eligible persons before planned local elections.
9. Encourage the provincial authorities, concerned communities and refugee associations to carry out with UNHCR sensitisation campaigns in order to reduce inter-communal tensions and prepare the peaceful resettlement of refugees and IDPs.
10. Submit a draft law to the national legislature, based on the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) investigation into mass crimes committed in Congo since 1993, to create a truth and reconciliation commission and a vetting process for screening out the worst human rights abusers from the police, armed forces and intelligence services.
11. Improve economic opportunity and control and exploitation of mineral wealth in North Kivu by:
(a) strengthening agencies responsible for tax collection and supervision of mines;
(b) ensuring that the review of mining contracts granted during the war that has begun in Kinshasa includes concessions granted in the province; and
(c) consulting with the Congolese Federation of Enterprises (FEC) of North Kivu over best ways to open up and regulate the economy.
To the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court:
12. Investigate atrocity crimes committed in the Kivus since June 2003 and prosecute those most responsible.
To the UN Mission in Congo (MONUC):
13. Establish joint monitoring teams with the national army to control troop movements around designated assembly areas for Nkunda's forces, and obtain agreement, in return for food and other logistical support, to assign military advisers to integrated brigades deployed in North Kivu to help commanders mentor troops and prevent human rights abuses.
14. Support joint operations with the national army to create weapons-free zones, control main communication routes and aggressively contain and disarm the FDLR in Masisi, Walikale and Rutshuru.
To Major Donors, including the U.S., UK, France, South Africa and Belgium:
15. Provide technical advice and funding for the land redistribution commission in North Kivu and to improve state agencies' capacity to collect taxes and prevent smuggling, and fund the OHCHR program to map mass crimes committed in the Congo since 1993.
Nairobi/Brussels, 31 October 2007
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