The Collapse of Zambia Peace Summit on Congo: Moving Toward Disaster
The failure of the August 14th summit on Congo, held in Lusaka, Zambia, was a great disappointment for all involved parties, with only one exception, Congolese President Laurent Kabila. Such an episode is truly puzzling when one considers the inescapable need for peace in the war shattered Democratic Republic of Congo.
It seems that the warring parties have never agreed on their need for a truce as much as they did at the Lusaka summit. However Kabila, a former rebel himself, is seen as the one who deliberately obstructed the realization of a new memorandum, which was already mutually accepted by all involved parties.
Congo's conflict is by far Africa's greatest, not only because of the number of warring parties involved (6 nations and many rebel groups), but also because of the economic stagnation in the region as a whole which has resulted, in part, from the conflict. This does not even include the devastating future disasters that have been predicted, if the conflict continues.
Uganda and Rwanda assisted Kabila, who fought a vicious war. In 1997, he overthrew dictator Mobutu Sese Seko and changed the country's name from Zaire to Congo.
Strangely, Kabila's allies became his worst enemies when both Uganda and Rwanda began fueling the Congolese rebels to oust Kabila in August of 1998. The anti-Kabila alliance justified it's war by accusing the newly formed Congolese government of fostering Rwanda's fleeing Hutus rebels, who sought refuge in Congo after taking part in the slaughter of nearly one million Rwandan Tutsis. They also charge Kabila with corruption and with squandering the mineral-rich country's resources.
Yet, with the formation of the anti-Kabila front, a pro-Kabila alliance was quickly assembled as well, which included Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia.
The war gained momentum and fury, until July of 1999, when a peace accord was signed, also in Lusaka, Zambia. Both alliances then vowed to halt their military efforts and to faithfully implement the terms of the accord.
Unfortunately, the agreement proved to be as fragile as the involved parties' commitment to it. The foreign armies remained in Congo and there was no dialogue between the groups. The situation deteriorated even further when the Rwanda-Uganda alliance began to crack, and isolated exchanges of fire developed into a large scale military assault between the two on Congolese soil.
Many political analysts believe that the dismantling of the pro-rebel alliance is the primary reason behind the failure of the most recent peace summit held in Zambia. The Zambia meeting of ten African Presidents, five of whom were entangled in the conflict, was surrounded with optimism that a decisive and final peace arrangement would emerge from their deliberations. Yet 18 hours of ceaseless talks produced nothing, due to Kabila's rejection of plans to deploy UN forces to various regions in Congo. Kabila also rejected a provision to permit the Organization on African Unity's (OAU) envoy, former Botswana President Sir Ketumile Masire, to facilitate internal dialogue between the Congolese government and the rebels, as agreed upon in last year's peace accord.
Kabila's refusal took even his closest ally, President Robert Mugabi of Zimbabwe, by surprise. His obstinance can only be explained by his belief that the balance of power has tipped in his favor and that victory is now attainable, due to the dissolving of the Uganda-Rwanda alliance that supported the anti-Kabila rebels.
The Congolese President's calculations will soon prove deficient, and his callous behavior will most likely destabilize his own front. Zimbabwe for example, has shown signs of frustration regarding Kabila's stand. Namibia and Angola on the other hand, are receiving increasing pressure to pull out of the war, which for them has become meaningless and very costly. In short, if Kabila is betting on the rebels' loss of their supporters, he might find himself quite lonely, and once again militarily dominated.
The complexity of the war in Congo, and the involvement of several parties, is often a reason that drives many political observers to conclude that a decisive solution is difficult to attain. However, the unbearable damage caused by the war for all those involved, might itself be a motive for a final close to this bloody chapter.
The people of Congo have the right to experience true freedom and peace after decades of incomprehensible brutality and the absence of almost every sense of security. Foreign armies in Congo must respect the sovereignty of the country and depart immediately, if they are truly concerned about the sovereignty of their own countries. But ultimately, President Kabila must renew his faith in peace and prevent his military ambitions from accelerating a greater war, and a greater tragedy.
(Ramzy Baroud is freelance journalist living in Seattle, Washington. He is a regular contributor to iviews.com)
Topics: Conflicts And War, Democratic Republic Of The Congo