By William Church

Director, GLCSS

Last November the Great Lakes Centre for Strategic Studies (GLCSS) described a worst case scenario in both its weekly newsletter and in the press. This scenario had two pillars: first, it forecasted that armed group like the FDLR,  and ex-General Laurent Nkunda would not disrupt the elections, but instead they would remain a viable military force to gain a negotiated position after the elections. Second, GLCSS made a counter point that the real issue, that controlled the future of the DRC, was the establishment of good governance by the Kinshasa government.


The DRC is a primary lesson and example for the international community that elections do not signal the end of a conflict. UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guehemo last week stressed, speaking broadly about peacekeeping efforts, that elections must be accompanied by a successful disarmament and demobilization campaign of the former combatants. This has not happened in the DRC.


The failure of disarmament and demobilization effort has been viewed as only one failure which is counterbalanced by successful democratic elections. This is a fatal misreading of the situation; instead it should be seen as a failure of developing and executing good governance principles that produce a more accurate prognosis of the DRC’s future than elections supported by international community firepower.


First, CONADER has exhausted its $200 million fund and leaves 85,000 soldiers to be demobilized. This includes nearly 30,000 soldiers in the combined forces of the Republican Guard and the Kinshasa Garrison.  In addition, in the East there are at least 44,000 soldiers awaiting demobilization from the 6th, 8th, and 10th Military Regions. 


CONADER did demobilize 76,614 soldiers for an average cost of over $2610 per demobilized soldier, which is significantly more than the individual soldier’s demobilization package. The administration of this program is a primary pillar of the path forward for both MONUC and the Kabila government and it is a clear failure.


Second, the failure to develop disciplined and effective integrated brigades is another example of governance failure. 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. There are consistent reports coming from South Kivu where the civilians seek the protection of the FDLR from the pillaging and raping of the FARDC and not the other way around.


There is no better demonstration of a failure of governance than the failure to secure the safety of the population. It clearly demonstrates the lack of will of the Kabila government.


Third, the Kabila government has failed to establish the most basic control of its borders for the reasons of taxation and security. The militia groups continue to be resupplied and the Kabila government continues to be the primary violator of the United Nations Arms Embargo.


Fourth, there has been very little progress in providing the most basic services to the citizens of the DRC, and perhaps this will be the most important point for the future.  GLCSS believes the DRC’s primary danger is one of future civil unrest and not election violence and definitely not one of foreign invasion or influence.


Fifth, the DRC embodies the adage, “The more things change the more they stay the same.”  The lack of governance in Mobutu’s Zaire was pushed to the limit when over one million Rwandan refugees, mixed with the armed genocidal forces of the Interahamwe and former Rwandan army flooded into eastern Zaire.


This lack of governance was demonstrated when these forces, which were responsible for the slaughter of over one million Rwandan Tutsi and moderate Hutus, were not forced to disarm, as dictated by international refugee agreements, and allowed to develop a government in exile that continued to wage war under domestic and international protection.


The international community appears to have forgotten that the Mobutu Zaire was racked by ethnic killings, economic decay, and a non-functioning government. Very little has changed today.


The DRC remains a country divided along ethic or regional affiliations, another public sector strike looms as teachers, doctors and other government workers go unpaid. The mineral wealth of the DRC continues to be exploited, without benefiting the citizens of the DRC. Once again this is a governance failure not the result of military invasion.


However, there is a counter view that is more chilling. The DRC of today is not the same DRC/Zaire of Mobutu. The DRC today is a country awash with weapons with current and former soldiers who know how to use them. Ituri remains lawless, despite the boast by the FARDC commander that it would be rid of militia by December 2005 and the presence of some of the best FARDC integrated brigades with very strong MONUC military support.


In North and South Kivu, the Kabila government has achieved détente with forces that by international agreements they were bound to disarm or arrest in the case of ex-General Laurent Kabila and the FDLR. It is important to add, as GLCSS forecasted last year, these forces are not a danger to the elections, but instead, they are an example of the failure to establishment good governance in the DRC.


The international press’ preoccupation with election violence is a sideshow to the real issues of governance. GLCSS’ forecast was a worst case scenario of a stalemate between the Kabila’s forces, EUFOR and MONUC, and other armed groups.


Vice President Bemba does not have the necessary firepower or logistics to establish a credible threat to nationwide elections or to the government. Diplomatic efforts have improved relations with Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi and have eliminated the possibility of foreign intervention. Also, more importantly, the African Union has been strengthened as a diplomatic forum since 1996.


GLCSS believes the worst case scenario is the current scenario. There is a military stalemate and there is a lack of governance. The real danger for the DRC is if the old Kabila government is the new Kabila government. The difference is that the DRC is flooded with weapons and the expectation for good governance  has been raised.


This situation is not the direct responsibility of the United Nations. The DRC is a lesson learned for the United Nations, as is other African countries, notably Darfur/Sudan. UN presence without complete support and cooperation of the national power can not provide lasting stability. The UN can not nor does it want to be a military occupying power enforcing peace and good governance. Its principles dictate that there must be a national will in place.


In previous forecasts, GLCSS has allowed that the new Kabila government may not be the old Kabila government. Kabila’s coalition in the Assembly will appoint the new Prime Minister and all government appointments. If the opposite proves true, peace and stability in the DRC will be buried in a tidal wave of raised expectations and new armed groups.  Jean Pierre Bemba has little reason to risk  a military defeat when he can wait and watch the Kabila government collapse under this tidal wave.




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 at GLCSS trains African journalists, offers an on-site internship to African studies students, and manages an exchange program with journalists from the United Kingdom, the United States and Europe.
GLCSS monitors the media for false or misleading news stories and publishes a weekly newsletter.






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