Democratic Republic of Congo – Profile Part 3

 

Ugandan forces created a new province in the eastern part of Congo in June 1999. It was called Ituri. This proved to be a disaster as in this newly formed province were two main ethnic groups; the Lendu and the Hema. Matters came to a head when the commander of UPDF forces James Kazini, appointed a Hema to be its governor. The Lendu perceived this as the Hemu being backed by Uganda and quickly violence erupted. 400 ethnic Hema were killed by Lendu in what has become known as the Blukwa Massacre. The UPDF trained militia from both sides as the fighting escalated. Fighting continued until a neutral was appointed governor. By the time this had happened over 200,000 people were displaced and a further 7,000 people had died in what became known as “the war within a war”.

Fighting erupted once more in 2001when the neutral governor was replaced by a Hemu. This lead to a split in the RCD – it broke into the RCD-K under Wamba dia Wamba and the RCD Mouvement de Liberation (RCD-ML). The conflict in Ituri continued even after the official ending of the Second Congo War in 2003. This has resulted in the deaths of many thousands more. Human Rights Watch revealed in a 2005 report that the militias in this mineral rich area were funded mainly by profits sourced by mining gold which was smuggled through Uganda into European markets. The Anglo-American mining conglomerate was implicated in this disgusting engagement.

July 1999, saw the signing of the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement. It was signed by the heads of state of Angola, DR Congo, Namibia, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It was hoped that this would bring an end to the conflict and allow a UN peacekeeping mission to enter the country. In reality the agreement seemed to have very little provisions to be able to address the problems that lay before it. Fighting erupted sporadically after the agreement was signed with all sides blaming each other of not honouring it. The UN Security Council August 1999 passed resolution 1258 that saw military liaison personnel being sent to the capitals of each signatory country and also set up a joint military commission to oversee the implementation of the peace agreement. Resolution 1273 was passed in November and according to the UN it was established “initially to plan for the observation of the ceasefire and disengagement of forces and maintain liaison with all parties to the Ceasefire Agreement”. This created the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC).

This did not stop the fighting between rebels and the government and also between Rwandan and Ugandan forces. Government forces launched an offensive in Equator Province in August 2000. The offensive was thwarted by MLC forces along the river Ubangui near Libenge. Attempts both military and diplomatic proved fruitless. Neither the UN, the Southern African Development Community nor the African Union could make any sort of progress.

16 January 2001, saw an assassination attempt on Laurent Kabila by one of his personal bodyguards. State television, two days later announced that Kabila had died from his injuries. It has not came to light as to why exactly Kabila was assassinated but many believe it may have been due to his unwillingness to introduce a new constitution and fair elections, many may have seen him simply continue the Mobutu era under a new name. He certainly did not help himself on an international level as he refused to start repaying any of the country’s $14 billion debt while also preventing a UN investigation into the massacre of tens of thousands of Rwandan refugees during his march to power.

With the death of Laurent Kabila, a new president had to be elected and given the fact that the parliament was basically handpicked by the now deceased Kabila. It came as no surprise when his son was unanimously voted in to become the new President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo just ten days after his father’s assassination. It did not take long for the newly elected Kabila junior to enter into talks to initiate a withdrawal of foreign troops in the Congo. In February 2001, Joseph Kabila met with Rwandan President Paul Kagame in the USA. It was decided during talks that Rwandan troops would begin to withdraw.

2002 saw more tentative steps towards an end to the conflict. The Sun City Agreement was signed on 19 April. The agreement was a framework where the Congo would it was hoped have a unified multiparty government and fair democratic elections would be held. The agreement did not end all hostilities but it did lead to a reduction in clashes between warring factions. 30 July 2002, saw a peace deal brokered between Rwanda and the DR Congo which became known as the Pretoria Accord. This accord saw an estimated 20,000 Rwandan soldiers withdraw from the Congo. It also set about attempting to dismantle the Hutu militia the Interahamwe.

September 6th saw a similar agreement reached between the Congo and Uganda this time. This became known as the Luanda Agreement. The agreement followed the same lines as the Pretoria Accord; Ugandan troops were to also withdraw from the Congo.

On 17 December 2002, the Congolese organizations of the Inter Congolese Dialogue – the national government, the RCD, the RCD-ML, the RCD-N, the MLC, opposing politicians, civil society representatives along with the Mai Mai – all signed the Global and All-Inclusive Agreement. This agreement paved the way for a transitional government which would result in legislative and presidential elections within two years of the date the agreement was signed. This marked the official ending of the Second Congo War.

congoHowever this did not lead to the cessation of fighting. Vast areas of the country still even after the signing of the Global and All-Inclusive Agreement witness rebel activity on a daily basis. According to BBC “people in the east of the country remain in terror of marauding militia and the army”. The country remains a theatre of mass violence and is one if not the world’s worst humanitarian disasters. When one takes into account that since the outbreak of the First Congo War an estimated 5.4 million people have lost their lives either through direct military fighting or as a result of famine and disease. This means that since the outbreak in 1998, it has assumed the most terrifying accomplishment of being the world’s most deadly conflict since World War Two. The majority of people have died from non-violent causes such as malaria, diarrhoea, pneumonia and malnutrition – all of which are easily preventable under normal circumstances. Another stark statistic is the fact that children make up 19% of the population but account for 47% of all deaths. Countless thousands of women and girls have been raped during this time. Over 1.5 million people have become either internally displaced or refugees, while according to Oxfam over 2 million children are now homeless. 45,000 people continue to die each month which means that 1,500 people die each day as a result of continued hostilities.

The main reasons as to why this tragedy rumbles on today are due to its almost complete lack of effective government and its vast natural resources (these include the likes of cobalt, tantalum, tin, gold and diamonds). The Democratic Republic of the Congo is blessed with every conceivable mineral known to man. The United States government estimates that the Congo could have anything up to the region of $17 trillion dollars’ worth of these raw materials under its soil. One may ask why and how could a country with such resources find itself in the position that it’s in? This can be easily explained when one looks ever so briefly at the country’s colonial past where at one time a certain King Leopold of Belgium treated it as his own backyard. Since then the Congo has suffered looting in one way or another. From the Congo Free State to DR Congo to Zaire and back to DR Congo it has always been the victim of grand scale theft. Those who suffer as a result and in such alarming numbers are helpless citizens who have no control over their own destinies.

The resources of the Congo many believe make it the envy of the region. One only has to look and wonder why countries like Uganda and Rwanda find it so difficult to leave the Congo completely and it is this combination of mineral wealth and corruption that continues to keep the Congo in the abject misery that it finds itself in.

2006 saw the democratic election of a new government. It was the first multi-party elections held in the country for 41 years. It eventually saw Kabila sworn in as President on 6 December 2006. This did not affect the on-going conflict zones in the eastern and north eastern areas of the country in any way.

An Amnesty International Report in April 2003 states that; “Following the war that brought Laurent-Désiré Kabila to power in 1997, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi faced serious threats from armed political groups operating from within the DRC, such as the interahamwe militia and former members of the Rwandese government forces. However, the military operations of Rwanda and Uganda, their Congolese allies and their enemies became increasingly dictated by commercial and not purely security considerations”

Rwanda’s Department of External Security established a ‘Congo Desk’. According to Amnesty International it’s purpose was “to administer proceeds from the exploitation of wealth from eastern DRC”. The UN Panel of Experts in October 2002 stated that “the Congo Desks contribution to Rwanda’s military expenses would therefore have been in the order of $320 million. The activities funded by revenues generated by the Congo Desk strongly shape Rwanda’s foreign policy and directly influence national decision making in a number of domains. These transactions are, however, hidden from the scrutiny of international organizations”. The UN panel of experts go on to state that although Uganda plays a part in the illegal profiteering the government itself does not enrich itself instead only individuals were profiting. These individuals go unpunished nonetheless.

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