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There never has been clarity on the political goals of international involvement in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the immensity of the humanitarian crisis in the country has only contributed to the neglect of politics. The horrors of sexual abuse have drawn international attention, including from Hillary Clinton when she was secretary of state. The plight of Congolese women is only the worst symptom of a deeper political problem: the collapse of state institutions, itself the result of a failed political process. The first peace agreement, the Lusaka Accord of 1999, did not ignore the need for a political process, as it provided for an Inter-Congolese Dialogue that would bring together the Congolese government in Kinshasa, the rebel movements, and all the major organizations and groups of the recognized representative political opposition as well as representatives of the main components of Congolese society, what the French call the forces vives. The accord also acknowledged the connections between the internal peace process of Congo and the regional dynamics: Congo had become a battlefield for its neighbors and a haven for the genocidaires because of its own weakness. But the accord could not address the fundamental unresolved issue that has now plagued the country for more than a decade: how could the country recover if the region was not willing to accept a stronger Congo? An agreement among the Congolese is an indispensable foundation for regained strength,but it is not enough. The domestic peace process and the regional peace process have to be closely coordinated. This would be fully recognized by the United Nations only in 2012, when Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and UN high commissioner for human rights, was given a very broad peacemaking mandate, which included internal as well as regional reconciliation. This role is now fulfilled by Said Djinnit,an Algerian who very effectively draws 148 six DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO Was It Worth It? on his previous experience as commissioner for peace and security of the African Union. As a follow-up to the Lusaka agreement, the Organization of African Unity in December 1999 had appointed Sir Ketumile Masire, an elderly former president of Botswana, as facilitator for the domestic process, and he was supposed to complete the process in only three months. The Kinshasa side, which was deeply suspicious of a process that gave legitimacy to the rebel movements it was fighting, very grudgingly accepted his appointment. The fact that Masire belonged to the“anglophone”sphere and had several British advisers did not help with his Kinshasa interlocutors, who saw him as too close to their anglophone enemies in Uganda and Rwanda. And many Congolese leaders do not speak a word of English.After the assassination of Laurent-Désiré Kabila and the February 2001 meeting between his son and successor Joseph Kabila and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, things began to move. During Kofi Annan’s visit to the DRC in September 2001, Kisangani was mentioned as a possible venue for the dialogue. It would be a great symbol that the Congolese were claiming back their country and taking charge of their future if the conference took place in a city located right in the center of their country, one that had itself witnessed terrible devastation. This choice of venue, which would have required the demilitarization of Kisangani, proved to be too ambitious. The Rwandanbacked rebel group Congolese Rally for Democracy-Goma (RCD-Goma) and Rwanda, which controlled the city, were not ready in 2001 for the demilitarization of Kisangani, despite the loud demands from the city’s people I witnessed during my visit there in early 2002. It would take the international outrage that followed another round of violence during the May Rebellion of 2002 in Kisangani to raise the pressure to the point where Rwanda decided that holding on to Kisangani and the east was becoming politically untenable. The decision was eventually made to hold the Inter-Congolese Dialogue outside the country. There was a false start in Addis Ababa in October 2001. Only 70 delegates out of 320 invited showed up, and the talks collapsed barely a week into the meeting when the delegation of Kinshasa pulled out; the government of South Africa rescued the dialogue by inviting the parties to a luxurious South African resort, Sun City. I went to Sun City two days after the formal opening of the dialogue, on February 25, 2002. In any negotiation to end a conflict, the venue matters a...


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MARC Record
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