With the Addis Ababa accord signed, what prospects for Eastern Congo?


Today has marked the signature of a new peace accord designed to bring an end to continuous violence and civil war in the Eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is not the first one, and if not properly implemented it will not be the last one either. There are a few positive aspects worth mentioning, however:

For a long time, it is the first attempt to bring together all regional and major international player in the DRC conflicts: All member states of regional security body ICGLR (DRC, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Sudan, Tanzania, Burundi, Zambia, Angola, Congo-Brazzaville, CAR) are among the signatories, with further the UN, the AU, the ICGLR as a body, and the SADC taking the role of guaranteeing the implementation efforts. Hence, at the international and inter-governmental level, all necessary stakeholders are included with the EU, Belgium, France, the US, and the UK also committing to the agreement.

In addition, after some divergence (officially due to formal aspects) it should be welcomed that all regional actors have found a common denominator and expressed political will to put an end to DRC’s perpetuate calamities. The recommendations theoretically express what needs to be done to succeed in this task. The tipping point here is the reading of the signatories, however. It might differ on practical levels given the abstract nature of the text. The recommendations further include some more or less new approaches (if a special envoy is going to be endorsed with the mentioned authority for instance). So far, so good.

On the other side of the medal, though, many things remain unclear or completely unaddressed:

The strength of the accord in regrouping this range of signatories can turn out as a major weakness. DRC’s conflicts and their localised nature have often displayed that internationally brokered accords are unable to tackle the real dynamics of the problem. On the failure of local peacebuilding, Séverine Autesserre, has found that grassroot solutions are an indispensable part of an overall approach. In fields of governance, its transformation and permutation towards non-state actors, Koen Vlassenroot and his colleagues have shown that much of the challenges lie within DRC’s boundaries and not outside. Concerning local and regional elites, Jason Stearns makes a point for addressing regional and transnational strongmen networks that need not always reflect official state or political structures. Combining the three, the Addis Ababa accord comes up as a promising endeavour which necessarily has to be amended by a lot of other measures.

First and foremost, Addis must be followed by an inclusive framework for all actors actively or passively engaged in conflict dynamics. These include local civil society, customary authorities (e.g. mwamis), economic communities (e.g. mining associations), negative forces/armed groups, representatives of ethnic groups/communities, and sub-state political actors. All of them have been neglected to different degrees in the last years. A solution without them is dangerous due to the following points:

1) they have local knowledge and have analysed the conflicts more profoundly and longer than all others

2) they (armed groups and the elites manipulating them) are among the most probable spoilers of peace

3) any peace brokered must suit these actors, because it is them living, working, quarreling in the concerned region

Not only political accords, but also other strategies to build peace failed due to a lack of inclusion of local actors. Disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration (DDR) measures, for instance were largely inefficient throughout the last decade as they have not been implemented smartly enough. While tens of thousands have been disarmed and demobilised, the reintegration/reinsertion part was poorly engineered by both international and governmental actors in the DRC. This applies both civilian and military reintegration. The result was a blatant contribution to the Kivu’s volatile security complex (more on the single and concrete reasons of this failure will be provided on this blog within the coming months).

In addition to the now invigorated peace accord, other engagements are crucial for peace. Most of them are clearly named within the agreement’s text, but creative implementation ideas are missing. To name three of them: Security Sector Reform (SSR), the role of MONUSCO (including their to be formed intervention brigade, aka NIF), and the role of regional actors.

1) SSR remains the key to peace and stability in the DRC. As earlier I define SSR as a comprehensive concept including police and army reform, judicial reform, and institutional reform in all other domains that touch upon human security, state security, and regulation of dispute. As of now, international actors (UN and other bi- and multilateral partners) have turned out to be cowardice in this field while the Congolese state has impressed by unwillingness. This deadlock must be lifted.

2) The role of MONUSCO has been heavily criticised, both within and outside the DRC. Most recently, the mission was attacked for being idle while M23 conquered Goma (More adequate critique would have been defending Goma outside the city’s margins – as soon as M23 had entered it was the right choice to keep away – MONUSCO’s mandate has two key points: protecting civilians and assisting the host state. Their behaviour during and after M23’s seize of the town was completely adequate in that regard, but many media outlets seem not to have read the mandate text). Now, MONUSCO is likely to be reinforced by some kind of robust battle-group style brigade made of South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. It will be crucial to avoid a) parallel structures and doctrines and b) the new brigade to become rogue blue helmets (given potential stakes of the deploying countries. Generally, it is also high time that a) MONUSCO is provided with the necessary capacity, also on political levels, to perform according to its tasks, b) that MONUSCO becomes a UN peacekeeping mission in the sense that not deploying countries but a joint UN command holds the control, and c) the scheme of integrated mission is altered before civilian-military blurring further puts independent, neutral, and impartial humanitarian action at risk.

3) Lastly, on the role of regional actors. Two points: One the one hand, regional bodies such as AU, ICGLR, and SADC must emancipate from their member states in the way that they can more actively moderate among the latter instead of being instruments for the most powerful coalitions (wishful, but still essential for enhanced regional integration – the EU gives many examples and is still on its way in that regard). On the other hand, the agreement’s vague wording must be clarified among the concerned nations. To give an example which has been controversely discussed: If Rwanda and/or Uganda have been providing support to the M23, it would mean they would have to end such immediately. However, if Rwanda/Uganda continued to deny such support, the wording of the agreement would not foresee other consequences, as the supervision of who does what where and how has not been clarified and the same antagonism as reflected by last year’s UN Group of Experts report and Rwanda’s rebuttal would persist. Besides the non-involvement of local actors, this can be identified as a key weakness of the accord.

Overall, this means: Addis Ababa, a welcome opportunity for fresh drive and new ideas in the DRC peace process, a necessary but not a sufficient condition. More efforts on all levels are required. Meanwhile, the Kivu provinces remain in a fragile no-peace-no-war continuum and numerous potential old and new fronts.

One Response to “With the Addis Ababa accord signed, what prospects for Eastern Congo?”
Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] in some quarters that a moment of real boots-on-the-ground engagement with the DRC’S many non-state armed groups has arrived. However, despite these recent developments, it remains to be seen whether the […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: