Friday, October 05, 2012

Eastern Congo: Why Stabilisation Failed

Source: International Crisis Group © 2012

Since Bosco Ntaganda’s mutiny in April 2012 and the creation of the 23 March rebel movement (M23), violence has returned to the Kivus. This crisis shows that today’s problems are the same as yesterday’s because the 2008 framework for resolution of the conflict has yet to be put in place. Instead of implementing the 23 March 2009 agreement between the government and the CNDP (National Council for the Defence of the People), the Congolese authorities pretended to integrate the CNDP into political institutions, while the rebel group pretended to integrate into the Congolese army. In the absence of army reform, military pressure on armed groups only had a temporary effect and post-conflict reconstruction was not accompanied by essential governance reforms and political dialogue. To move away from crisis management and truly resolve the two-decades-old conflict, donors should put pressure on both Kigali and Kinshasa.

The M23 is behaving in a similar fashion to previous rebel movements by creating its own administration and its own financing system in parts of North Kivu. Meanwhile, Mai-Mai groups are expanding in rural areas where they commit atrocities that exacerbate inter-ethnic tensions. Pursuant to the peace and security architecture, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) organised in July a regional dialogue to avoid conflict between Rwanda and the DRC. Unfortunately, it seems to be promoting an unrealistic and ineffective solution by advocating for the deployment of a 4,000-strong neutral force at the border between Rwanda and the DRC.

If international donors and African mediators persist in managing the crisis rather than solving it, it will be impossible to avoid the repetitive cycle of rebellions in the Kivus and the risk of large-scale violence will remain. To move from crisis management to conflict resolution, Rwanda’s involvement in Congolese affairs must end and the reconstruction plan and the political agreements signed in the Kivus must be implemented. For that to happen, Western donors should maintain aid suspension against Rwanda until the release of the next report of the UN group of experts. They should also make clear to the Congolese authorities that they will not provide funding for stabilisation and institutional support as long as the government will not improve political dialogue, its governance and the army in the east, as recommended by Crisis Group several times.
In the short term, this crisis can be dealt with through the following initiatives:
  • a ceasefire between the Congolese authorities and the M23 must be negotiated and monitored by the UN;
  • the joint and permanent verification mechanism for the DRC and Rwandan border reactivated by the ICGLR should be effective and provided with the necessary technical and human resources;
  • the individuals and entities that supported the M23 and other armed groups must be added to the UN sanctions list and an embargo on weapons sales to Rwanda should be considered;
  • the 23 March 2009 agreement must be jointly evaluated in the framework of the international follow-up committee it established and this assessment should be the basis for resumption of dialogue between the government and CNDP;
  • MONUSCO and the government should launch local peace initiatives in Walikale, Masisi, Shabunda and Kalehe areas where ethnic tension is high;
  • Bosco Ntaganda should be arrested and handed over to the International Criminal Court (ICC); and
  • the ICC should investigate the actions of M23 and new armed groups and request MONUSCO to transfer its files concerning M23 leaders.
After analysing the failure of the stabilisation of the Kivus in the report Congo: No Stability in Kivu despite Rapprochement with Rwanda, this new Crisis Group briefing explains the surge of violence and underlines that the Kivus do not need a new strategic approach; rather, the peace agreements and stabilisation plans should no longer be empty promises. This requires coordinated and unequivocal pressure from the donors that pay the bills of the Rwandan and Congolese regimes.