By Staff

Great Lakes Centre for Strategic Studies

A new era in the history of the DRC has begun. Last year was a historic year for the country with its first democratically elected president and parliamentarians and the establishment of other state institutions. However, it appears doubtful that there will be significant advances in good governance and human rights in the DRC during 2007. The best case scenario would see the completion of security sector reform, improved revenue collection and explosive growth in the extractive industries, which would set the stage for improved governance and delivery of social services in 2008.

2007 Political Forecast

Political situation improving but still volatile

 

The DRC political scene will be dominated by the installation of all post-transition institutions, and the appointments of DRC representatives in various countries and international bodies. However, the challenges awaiting President Kabila are numerous.  

 

President Kabila and Antoine Gizenga, the Prime Minister, are likely to encounter two major challenges during and after the process of appointing government officials. First, the opposition is likely to develop resentment against Kabila’s Alliance for Presidential Majority (AMP) coalition, which dominates the National Assembly and eight of the 11 provincial assemblies. The AMP is also expected to dominate all remaining institutions including the Senate. 

 

There is a significant chance of increased political tension and demonstrations by the opposition. This will be fuelled by AMP hegemony and lack of progress in delivering social services, ongoing corruption, and human rights abuses.  The Bemba-led opposition will offer further challenges to Kabila, and hardliners on both sides are likely to continue triggering political conflicts. In the west, the opposition may be reinforced by extensive popular resentment of Kabila but it will not prevent the government from functioning. 

 

As previously reported, 75 percent of voters from the western and central provinces voted for Bemba in the run-off election, and many believe Kabila won by fraud. Resentment could lead to unrest in major cities, followed by brutal repression by security forces, as has been common in the past. Even though the UDPS boycotted the electoral process, isolating itself from the DRC political scene, its president Etienne Tshisekedi remains influential in some provinces such as Kasaïs and is more than likely to continue boycotting government plans. GLCSS believes there is a significant chance that the Kabila government will continue to isolate the UDPS, further undermining the government.

 

Second, if it is not well managed, the Kabila coalition itself may develop internal wrangles depending upon whether the expectations of each party in the coalition are met.  It will be difficult, if not impossible, to please over 30 parties and other independent individuals in the AMP, which helped Kabila to victory.
 

This will engender further misunderstanding within the AMP and mounting resentment within the opposition soon after the appointment of the cabinet. However, given the support of the international community, the new DRC institutions are likely to remain functional but achieve little of what they are expected to, leading to a dysfunctional but outwardly functioning government during 2007.

 

This scenario will affect not only the internal functions of the DRC government but increases the risk of destabilizing its regional commitments established at the 2nd International Conference on the Great Lakes and the Tripartite Plus One Joint Commission. The risk includes a failure to implement security commitments in Eastern DRC, or fulfil regional economic and infrastructure integration planning.

 

Finally, the test of the DRC’s direction and future will be the proposed expansion of the number of provinces and the assumption of local control. There is very little evidence that progress will be made in this direction during 2007 since a national consolidation of power appears to be the Kabila government’s top priority.

2007 DRC Security Forecast

 

The security situation will be dominated by dealing with the remaining armed groups, resumption of the DDRR program and training the DRC security organs.

Local and foreign armed groups still a threat

 

Militias are still active in the DRC and this is a crucial security challenge. This year, security is likely to improve relatively, provided the DRC cooperates with the international community and its neighbors such as Uganda and Rwanda in solving the issue of the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR) and Ugandan rebels such as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which are still present in the DRC. These foreign militias based in the Eastern DRC are still a serious security threat to the DRC and the whole Great Lakes region.

 

The FDLR combatants are mainly reported in Walungu, Masisi, Katoyi, and Walikale and in Virunga National Park between Masisi and Rutshuru in the Kivu provinces, while Ugandan rebels are believed to be in different parts of the Oriental Province, including Ituri district and Garamba National Park. GLCSS considers solving FDLR and LRA issues to be the cornerstone of reducing conflict in the region. The achievement of this goal will require the highest level of political will on the part of national leaders and the international community. In other words, GLCSS envisages more cooperative strategies among the countries of the region and the international community to deal with those negative forces who otherwise could jeopardize regional security, as in the past.

 

In addition, some Ituri district based militias and Laurent Nkunda in North Kivu will be among the priorities of the government.  While other militia leaders in Ituri joined the brassage process, the recently appointed Colonel Peter Karim is still resisting full disarmament. The government is expected to increase its focus on Karim, first peacefully and then militarily if necessary. The recent negotiations between the government and Nkunda, facilitated by Rwanda, will continue and should yield positive outcomes this year.  However, this will require flexibility on the part of both Kabila and Nkunda.

 

The assistance offered by Rwanda is a sign of Rwanda’s commitment to the Pact on Security, Stability and Development in the Great Lakes Region (PSSDGLR), signed in Nairobi last month. The next move belongs to President Kabila. It has been reported that during fighting in North Kivu in December 2006, the FDLR participated as not only an active ally of the DRC’s FARDC but also fought as an integrated force.

 

GLCSS believes the United Nations Security Council will maintain the current force level of MONUC until at least September 2007. The United States has been a proponent of capping or reducing the force level because of costs and other issues, and GLCSS does not believe it will continue its aggressive approach this year, in the post-Bolton era. However, the need to maintain current force levels will continue to put a strain on the UN’s ability to support other missions.

 

The disarmament, demobilization and integration process to resume

 

Ex-combatants are expected to be demobilized and others reintegrated in the FARDC. GLCSS does not expect the completion of this process within 2007, but progress will be made if international support is maintained. CONADER has demobilized more than 76,614 ex-combatants, including 19,000 children.
 

However, some 85,000 troops are still to undergo the process. GLCSS believes the primary obstacle to completing the demobilization and integration schedule will continue to be the lack of budget, but some countries or organizations may intervene and fund the process. Moreover some militia groups have resisted integration and disarmament. There are an estimated 6,000 remaining MLC soldiers that have not been disarmed or integrated into the FARDC. GLCSS does not believe these soldiers are an immediate threat to peace and security beyond the issues of looting and localized destabilization.
 

On President Kabila’s side, the Presidential Guard is estimated to be between 10,000 and 15,000 soldiers, and this force remains outside the control of the integrated army.  GLCSS believes that Kabila will continue to deploy the Presidential Guard in the strategic western DRC around Kinshasa to maintain his power in a politically weak and hostile zone. This will avoid clashes or political conflict with the FARDC, which is spread across the Eastern DRC and Katanga.
 

Ituri district will remain a source of conflict and instability until Kabila fully extends state authority to the whole of the Oriental Province. Stability in Ituri will be measured not only by ceasefires and integration of the militia, but also by mopping up weapons in an effective disarmament program and complete demobilization of all forces. This last issue is crucial because of the underlying ethnic issues and the potential for conflict.
 

The failure of the security sector reforms has been well documented and the DRC remains a country without a well trained and equipped national military. Regardless of the missed target of 18 integrated brigades, the real issue is that the FARDC remains an army that commits human rights abuses and is ill-disciplined. GLCSS does not expect a remarkable improvement in behavior and performance within the FARDC but small progress will be made.

 

On a positive note, threats to the DRC’s peace and security for 2007 have been isolated to internal issues.

 

Economic situation to improve slowly amidst challenges
 

Economic challenges triggered by corruption and public property mismanagement are unlikely to end this year. During the transition, between 60 and 80 per cent of customs revenue was embezzled, a quarter of the national budget was not accounted for and millions of dollars were misappropriated by the army, government institutions and state-run companies.

 

GLCSS believes the new administration will achieve little in dealing with these problems especially given that most of the senior government and military officials close to president Kabila have been implicated. Kabila’s entourage includes officials identified in United Nations reports as taking part in the plundering that has weakened the DRC economy.  This is another serious challenge because it may result in other conflicts if the government decides to try these individuals in the judicial system.

 

 

In the mining sector, GLCSS predicts that more investors will turn to the DRC despite huge challenges being experienced by companies already in the country.

Junior mining and exploration companies, the traditional risk-takers of the sector, are expected to pour into the DRC. A second wave of investment should occur when the major mining companies enter the country en masse, leading to an outbreak of investment, acquisitions, joint ventures and consolidation. However, concerns remain regarding the success of those investors in the lawless and somewhat hostile Eastern DRC.

 

Armed groups are still active in some mineral-rich regions like Ituri. Others are reported in Katanga and most of them are reported to be illegal miners.  In summary, investing in the DRC will remain risky and adventurous this year.

 

Existing companies like Anglo American, Phelps Dodge, Teal, Gravity Diamonds Limited and others have encountered obstacles such as insecurity, poor infrastructure, disputes with Gecamines, illegal miners and many others. These challenges are likely to remain.

 

Resource exploitation and illegal mining will continue on a large scale during 2007 and will hinder the legal development of resources and drain much needed revenues needed to build an effective government.

William Church is director of the Great Lakes Centre for Strategic Studies, a London-based think tank with offices in Central and East Africa. You may contact William Church atwchurch@glcss.org”>wchurch@glcss.org. GLCSS trains African journalists, offers an on-siteinternship to foreign African studies students, and manages an exchange program withjournalists from the United Kingdom, the United States and Europe.

 

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