Congo Conflict – Is all finally at peace
The political instability in Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in Congo and regions around it, is at an all-time surge. It has almost been two decades since the First and Second Congo Wars broke out, but the problems incepting from the two historically disturbing events are beyond any kind of resolution. Along with the inherited human resource crises across the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the region is also burdened with numerous other casualties like the Ebola outbreak in the east, ongoing chaotic violence across the Ituri, Kasai, and Kivu regions. Despite having a robust presence of sixteen thousand peacekeepers in the eastern region alone, terrorist and militant groups like Ugandan Allied Democratic Forces continue to terrorize local domestic communities and control weakly governed areas. As a result of the continued infliction of atrocities and poor and convoluted governance, millions of civilians have been forced to flee the fighting. According to the United Nations, there are currently 4.5 million internally displaced persons in the DRC and more than 800,000 refugees in other nations.
Historians consider the First and Second Congo Wars from 1996-1997 and 1998-2003 respectively as Sub-Saharan Africa’s World Wars and are invariably responsible for the present sorry and chaotic state of affairs. The war broke out right after the massive refugee crisis and spillover from the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The inter-community violence between Hutu and Tutsi communities lead to a massive slaughtering of 800,000 people in just 100 days. The Hutu genocidaires thereafter fled to the eastern province of DRC and formed armed groups. Simultaneously, the opposing community of Tutsi and its supporters also mobilized themselves in furtherance of an up roaring rebellion. As a consequence, the Congolese government was unable to control and defeat the numerous armed groups which eventually lead to a horrifying war.
The Congolese government was aided by financial and strategic support from subtle international powers like Angola, Namibia, and Zimbabwe as the country fought rebels from Rwanda and Uganda. While the official death toll estimates vary greatly, the death toll was almost recorded as high as three million people. The war was finally brought to a close when a peace deal was signed in 2002. Along with the peace deal, the new transition at the helm of governance also helped in neutralizing the mutiny. However, the eastern regions yet again witnessed a resurgence of different armed groups due to inefficient governance, weak institutions, and rampant corruption. One such prominent rebel group which went by the name, March 23 Movement (M23) caused serious trouble to the Congolese government, to the extent that the UN Security Council had to authorize an offensive brigade under the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) to support the DRC state army in eradicating the rebellion group. M23 was eventually defeated in 2013 but other armed groups have since emerged.
What were the Peace Agreements?
Upon witnessing the turmoil and unrest during the wars, especially Second World War, the UN, under grave seriousness and global duress responded by facilitating the development and implementation of four peace agreements. The first agreement namely The Lusaka Agreement created the first brief ceasefire in 1999 and was subsequently held up during the end of the War in 2003. The Lusaka Agreement was followed by the Sun City Agreement signed in April 2002 which laid the framework for governance in DRC and provided the foundation for architecting democratic institutions and elections. The first peace deal named, The Pretoria Accords was the chief agent in promoting peace over violence between Rwanda and DRC. The Accords proved to be a strategic catalyst in the dismantling of Hutu militias and the Rwandan withdrawal from DRC. The Luanda Agreement, thereafter signed in 2002, facilitated peace between Uganda and DRC and proved to be a success as Uganda also agreed to follow the footsteps of Rwanda and withdraw its troops from the DRC territory.
Future Conflicts Resolution
Successes which came in consequence of the signed agreements and accords were rather momentary than permanent. The peace agreements devised a way to end the conflict but did not result at the end of violence. Though the signatory regions like Uganda, Rwanda, and DRC no longer engage by deploying sovereign troops directly, the countries have their loyal rebel groups who continue to fight to date. The longevity of the peace agreements was so limited that it was only months after the fruition of agreements in 2002, an estimated 60-10,000 Bambuti pygmies were massacred by Congolese-backed rebel groups. So, the success of ending State on State conflict in the region is presently challenged by the recent years of violence that continues to rage on in the eastern part of the country. The state endorsement of peace and tranquility is simply obsolete rather than being objective. There is an extreme and ardent requirement of targeted effort by the international community and the DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda to translate the peace dialogue onto the ground at much micro-level, especially in the eastern areas. The previous peace deals and accords showcase the pattern that the signed agreements are redundant in totality if the problems are not strategically outlined and narrowed down to construct a systematic process to start progress towards the ultimate goal of peace and collective prosperity.
Requirement of Good Governance and Rule of Law
Good governance and a stringent legal system that guides and protects the rights of citizens is what anchors a country to a great, influential, and powerful nation. The DRC presently lacks comprehensive governance and therefore is a victim of exploitation, corruption, and ethnic tension. The current acting scope of the government which depends on more de-centralized local political jurisdictions needs to be replaced as small groups of futile political parties are subject to create more ruckus than solving them. The country needs to restructure its system by focusing on a more mechanized centralized political power at the helm which invariably incorporates the decentralized system and gives them reasonable space to perform. A start in this respect at the local level will allow for the facilitation of dialogue and democratic processes that lead to greater participation and accountability whilst maintaining peace and tranquility.
Along with good systematic governance, a codified and tacit legal system is also a must for a country to prosper. Congo is in desperate need of a strict and comprehensive legal code that holds all citizens accountable for their actions. Upon reading the terrain of the country, a universal code of human rights must be the first step towards mending as without an extensive set of human rights, any legal constitution would be redundant as individuals will continue to indulge in violence disregarding basic human rights. Transition in this course, therefore, must begin at the local level which would then ideally transpire to a greater legal system like that of a standard legal code. A legal system would not only be restricted in fighting violence but also try to neutralize the systems of corruption, nepotism, and clientelism for the betterment of the country.
While the war and mutinies do appear to be at rest in the Congo circuit, it’s still a long way of coping and introspection for the DRC. The country’s inherent web of complex political, societal, ethnic, and economic differences poses one of the biggest post-conflict challenges for the government in power. Furthermore, the societal differences provide justifiable cause for the groups to pick up arms and resort to violence. Therefore, with the correct application of new policies and building the nation on the foundation of previous peace accords, DRC can turn its tale on its head and could become a champion of peaceful transition in Africa.