Date: Sun, 29 Aug 1999 19:22:58 -0400
From War to Peace in the Congo or Devastation and Militarism
By Horace G. Campbell <email@example.com>, 19 August 1999
War between Rwanda and Uganda?
For four days from August 14-17th 1999, troops of the Rwandan Army commanded by James Kaberehe attacked positions held by RCD/Kisangani, which is led by Wamba dia Wamba.. On the morning of Tuesday August 17, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Vice President Paul Kagame agreed to a cease fire, yet seven hours after the agreed cease fire, the troops of the RPA over ran the Hotel Wagenia that served as the headquarters of the Wamba delegation of the Congolese Rally For Democracy. The soldiers of the Ugandan Peoples Defense Forces (UPDF) who had been in Kisangani since October 1998 had agreed to observe the cease fire. The international media represented the battle as war between Uganda and Rwanda, but was this the case?
Ever since the attempt to remove Wamba from the leadership of the Congolese alternative to Kabila, Wamba had been under the military protection of the Ugandan army. There was a major political campaign against Wamba by the elements of the RCD Goma, led by Dr. Emile Ilunga. The government of Rwanda militarily, financially and politically supported Ilunga and his supporters. Though hundreds of young Congolese had flocked to Wamba after the division in Goma on May 18, Wamba had maintained that there must be a political solution and therefore eschewed the building of another army. This was considered a sign of weakness because the only effective opposition in the eyes of the RCD Goma was military opposition and the maintenance of an armed capacity. This was the position of those who wanted military solutions. Wamba's efforts to make diplomatic contacts with all forces in the Congolese war were presented as treachery.
The signing of the Lusaka peace accord is providing a framework for ending the war in the Congo. The rebellion had started in August 1998. The objective was the removal of the Kabila government that had institutionalized Mobutism without Mobutu. While there was a regional consensus on the removal of Mobutu there had been no regional agreement on the need to remove Kabila. The Kabila government at the beginning had claimed that the Congo was facing an invasion and would not discuss negotiations with the Rally for Congolese Democracy. When Kabila signed the Lusaka agreement the rebellion achieved its most important objective in forcing the Kabila government to agree to an inclusive political process. This major step forward was temporarily blighted by the efforts of those from the RCD Goma and from the Rwandan military that want only one method of removing Kabila, the military solution These elements risked repeating the same errors in not addressing the system that created Kabila.
There are many questions being asked all over the world on the reports of the fighting between Uganda and Rwanda. Was this another replay of the Eritrean/ Ethiopian war? The spectacle of two foreign armies fighting on Congolese soil demeaned the whole rebellion, sharpened the regional and local opposition to the war and exposed the fallacy of those who wanted to simply use brute force. The battles in Kisangani deepened the opposition to militarism. War creates destruction of lives and the productive capacity of a society. There was no basis for this battle after the Lusaka Peace Accord of July 10. The major question is when will this madness of militarism and plunder end? There are no easy answers. The RCD Kisangani has put forward statements on the need for a strong and stable Congo. They have tested these statements in their mass gatherings with the Congolese people. The ideas on the basic requirements for reconstruction and peace are now part of the politics of the Congo.
In this sense the rebellion against Kabila and the shifting alliances has brought about a level of clarity to move the political process forward. The new stage is one that will be even more challenging and protracted than the battles that led to the removal of Mobutu and the coming to power of Kabila. What is being fought for is a new mode of politics. This is called emancipatory politics. The main elements of this politics place the producers first. This mode of politics is based on thinking human beings, with politics based on accountability, transparency, democratic practices and regional cooperation among democratic states.
The genesis of the fighting in Kisangani
The differences within the rebellion against Kabila have been simmering since the rebellion began in August 1998. From the outset there were questions as to whether the rebellion would be for overthrowing the system that created Kabila or to serve the security interests of certain states by having a leadership that was dependent on external support. These questions were raised throughout the rebellion. The attempt at a quick coup detat against the Kinshasa government between August 2 and August 12 served to expose the limitations of a military solution to the problems of democratic governance. In retrospect, the failure of the coup and attack on Kitona saved the Congolese people the spectacle that was later played out in Goma and Kisangani. The more information on the origins of the RCD emerge, the more it becomes clear that there is no short cut to developing sound political organizations if Congolese politics is to move beyond plunder and self enrichment
The meetings that led to the formation of the Rally for Congolese Democracy were either going to lay the basis for a new direction in Congolese politics or were going to serve as a front for military operations. This tension remains in the RCD and is manifest in two different tendencies, the one led by Wamba dia Wamba, Depelchin, Kalala and those calling themselves the consistent democrats, and the other led by Bululu, Tambwe, Karaha and Ilunga who consider themselves the authentic opposition to Kabila. Both Bululu and Tambwe bear the burden of past overt service in the Mobutu era. Karaha had served as the foreign minister to Kabila.
These two positions are in turn supported by different external forces. The Rwandan government considered its security concerns to be the priority. Uganda also felt that its security was important. One other armed liberation movement in the Equateur region opened a front in October. Led by Jean Pierre Bemba, this armed wing called itself the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC). The political maturity of this group was from the moment open to debate depending on the debaters. Bemba and the MLC were perceived as Uganda's attempt to create a counterweight to the RCD. These two versions of security placed the interests of the Congolese people secondary. Both security concerns stressed the military needs of states and not of the people. The military solution called for the capture of towns, mobilization of troops, of military capital and planning for a military victory. When the towns were captured there were no overt and public efforts to build new political structures that were different from Mobutu and Kabila.
The question of the institutions and ideas that would guide the military struggle were not addressed. It now turns out that the political forces that were approached to support the rebellion were approached for window dressing. Wamba had circulated a letter in February 1998 addressing the issues raised by the form of governance of Kabila. In joining the rebellion he was of the view that it was necessary to bring together forces tat could move the politics of the society in a new direction. Those doing the recruiting for the rebellion promised every section future positions of leadership. The attempt at the capture of Kinshasa failed with the reversals at Kitona. This experience demanded a rethinking, but the quick victories in Uvira, Goma, Bukavu, Kisangani and later Kindu by October 1998 gave the leadership of the RCD and their supporters the idea that there could be a military solution. Mbuji Mayi became the goal with the reasoning that the Kabila regime would crumble without the requisite resources to pay the foreign troops. This was despite the fact that the President of the Congo had been able to mobilize support from Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe. Of these three countries, it was the Angolans who were the most committed to a military confrontation because they perceived the Congolese rebellion as opening new avenues for support for Jonas Savimbi. Were the Angolans correct? This is to be established.
One certainty which emerged was that all the forces fought the war using the same under the counter trade in diamonds, weapons and money laundering that had been perfected by Savimbi. It was a war where there was no visible external support There were claims and counter claims that different countries such as France, Libya or the USA were supporting differing sides but none of this could be corroborated. On the ground the harsh reality was that all sides had to finance the war on an emergency basis by plundering the Congo. In this sense, whether there was collusion between the rebellion and Savimbi at the overt level, at the level of the conduct of the war, there were similarities. All sides, (the Uganda/ Rwanda/RCD on one side and on the other Angola/Zimbabwe/ Namibia/Kabila) plundered the resources of the Congo. The ordinary Congolese became bystanders in the drama of war and plunder. Those voices within the unarmed opposition and those voices in the armed opposition that favored negotiations and a resumption of the sovereign national conference were never prominent.
The plunder of the resources of the Congo made the war profitable for the militarists on all sides. How could one develop a clear conception of peace and reconstruction in this process? Yet, it was the very same plunder and the entrepreneurial activities of the militarists that created the clarity that alternative conceptions of politics and reconstruction must emerge. Wamba and those elements of the rebellion calling themselves the "consistent democrats" were putting forward conceptions on a new politics based on trained political cadres and on the basis of a genuine, strong national army. The democratization process had to be reflected within the ranks of the rebellion if the rebellion were to take root among the Congolese people. The major issue that divided the RCD was whether the institutions and general principles agreed upon would be respected.
The Coup against Wamba
The ideas of Wamba were widely circulated at the onset as the guiding principles behind the rebellion. However, the ideas on the politics of openness and accountability were not welcomed by those who wanted the people to forget the past, especially the recent past of Mobutism. The ex-Mobutu elements in the rebellion confused the politics of inclusion to mean the politics of weakness. Hence, the campaign promoting the notion that Wamba was ineffective, weak and had no support, and should be removed from the leadership of the RCD. This campaign was waged through various means within the RCD, surfaced in December 1998 and exploded in May when a group calling themselves the "founding fathers" of the rebellion expelled Wamba. The matter that brought the differences to a climax was when Wamba demanded an audit of the accounts of the RCD. This was a level of accountability that was foreign to many in the rebellion, to the allies of the rebellion and in the politics of the region.
A small group organized the meeting that was called to remove Wamba. It is for this reason that it can be argued that if the issue was one of legality, then the Ilunga faction is the illegal faction; but the issue of leadership is and was not a legal question, it was a question of political legitimacy and the willingness of RCD leaders to struggle for the ideas that would move the Congolese society out of the rut of a corrupt politics of plunder. The coup against Wamba was swift. He was charged with deserting the leadership by moving from the Headquarters of the rebellion in Goma to Kisangani. Wamba had declared in January that in order to create room for expanding the political work of the RCD, it must move deeper into the Congo. Wamba and his staff personally made the move. The move to Kisangani created anxieties and Wamba is not entirely blameless since he did not clearly articulate the reasoning for the move from Goma to Kisangani. It was the issue of moving to Kisangani that brought the divisions out to the world, but these divisions were too deep to simmer indefinitely.
The decision to remove Wamba was never placed before the full Assembly of the RCD. In this sense, the RCD demonstrated that it could not move forward in a rebellion against Kabila without purging itself of the very same forms of politics that sustained Mobutu and created Kabila. At the founding of the RCD, it was the need to avoid arbitrary decisions and corrupt practices that brought Wamba to the leadership of the RCD.
The political campaign to discredit Wamba had taken an intense turn as the idea of a quick military victory evaporated. The various meetings for peace in Victoria Falls, Paris, Sirte, Namibia and later Lusaka clarified the fact that peace could not be based on the bilateral relations of any one of the states bordering the Congo, but had to take into consideration the broad regional concerns of peace for the Congolese people and all of the societies in the region. The Lusaka Peace Accord signed on July 10 was a step toward peace and reconstruction. One query was whether all of those fighting were for peace or a peaceful solution or would the profitability of war prevail. Six leaders (Uganda, Rwanda, Congo, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola) signed the peace accord while the issue of the division in the RCD was still unresolved. The leadership of the region sought to obtain an understanding of the differences in the RCD. This led to the mission of the Foreign Minister of South Africa and the representative of the Zambian President to Goma, Kigali and Kisangani.
The Congolese population in Kisangani represented the widespread view that they wanted an end to the war. These views were expressed in the strongest terms to the Foreign Minister of South Africa. The mass support before her arrival and the manifestations for Wamba in her presence gave exposure to the lie that Wamba had no support in the Congo. It was this overt support from the people who wanted peace that precipitated the battles in Kisangani.
Leaders such as Tambwe and Bululu were aware that they would have little or no support in an open, peaceful political context in the Congo. As former officials of Mobutu they were for military muscle and brute force. In this strategy they were supported by Ondekane, one of the original military leaders of the rebellion. In the past month, Ondekane was stoned by civilians when he tried to address a political meeting in Eastern Congo. The Bululu /Tambwe/Ondekane forces along with their supporters in the military and intelligence apparatus of the Rwandan army are the ones referred to as militarists in this analysis.
Despite the open hostility and verbal abuse over the radio, Wamba decided to strengthen the work of those who wanted a political solution and negotiations. Unlike other leaders from the RCD who left the movement for exile in Europe when they did not have their way, Wamba was firm in his view that the ideas that were being fought for and the principles needed to move the society were more important than any one individual. Wamba and the "consistent democrats" held firm to the opposition to militarism.
This period marked the production of clear statements on the crisis in the RCD exposing the root of the problems. These statements should have been distributed at the time of the move to Kisangani.
There were meetings in Kabale, Uganda and in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to seek to bring the issue of peace ahead of the differences. Elementary agreement at Kabale that both groups would provide a united front at the Lusaka meeting evaporated as the Bululu/Tambwe/Ilunga faction maintained that they would not sign if Wamba was a signatory to the peace accord. In one moment, the issue was no longer the dictatorship and politics of Kabila but the actions of Wamba. It was an obscene spectacle played out before the whole world and cheapening everything about the rebellion. A mission from SADC to get to the source of the problem encountered difficulties. In the first instance, there had been efforts to prevent the investigators from going to Kisangani. The persistence of the South African Foreign Minister meant that this strategy had to change. Wamba had steadfastly accepted that on the basis of the politics of inclusion his section of the RCD wanted the peace process to move forward so that the war can end. This was the immediate cause of the fighting in Kisangani.
The RCD Goma group had began a campaign of intimidation of citizens accompanied by intense hostile propaganda against Wamba. It was unthinkable that the government of Rwanda that had experienced the kind of hate radio in the period of genocide would countenance the depths of the campaign that was being waged in Kisangani by the RCD Goma backed by Rwandan troops. It was inevitable that the intimidation and hostile propaganda would lead to fighting. Wamba and the RCD Kisangani stated on August 17th that, "The goal we believe for Kigali and Goma, is to physically eliminate Prof. Wamba (as in the case of Kissase Ngandu during the AFDL war) and the entire political leadership of RCD/Kisangani after failing to do so through putsch, lies and diplomatic efforts."
This position from Wamba contradicted the widespread press report that this was a war between Uganda and Rwanda based on jealousies and struggle over minerals. There is no question that the future of concessions at diamond mines such as Banalia were of concern to the military entrepreneurs on both sides, but this issue had simmered for more than nine months. If the target were the entrepreneurial competitors of Rwanda, they would not have destroyed the headquarters of wamba after the cease fire and then carried out house to house searches for the leadership of the Wamba side. Jacques Depelchin argued forcefully that "the issue of the elimination of Wamba was the immediate trigger for the battles in Kisangani. Jacques Depelchin compared Wamba to Lumumba saying of the external forces, "The strategy was to have a Congolese leadership subservient to outside interests. And we know how it all ended; not only was Lumumba assassinated, but all of those who were considered the followers were hunted down like animals by fellow Congolese on orders from the CIA and other Western powers. Outside interests had their horses in the RCD too, but as with Lumumba before, Professor Wamba was not chosen by outside interests but by the Congolese, who created the RCD on the basis of his abilities, his vision and his understanding of the Congolese crisis. Like Lumumba earlier, Wamba was expected by outside powers to dance to their tune."
Peace and Reconstruction
Those who profited from war as a business will agree to peace accords while making mobilizations and troop movements for war. The battles in Kisangani exposed the reality that there were and are elements that do not want an end to the war. Was the battle in Kisangani a ruse to undermine the Lusaka accord? War is more profitable for these elements than peace. The battles in Kisangani brought a new perspective on the war and the claims and counter-claims by differing military forces. The defeat of the army of Kabila at Kabalo and Manono in May and the reversals for Zimbabwe at Ikela exposed both armies to the wishes of the Congolese people. These armies were taking cities but the population ran away. The ordinary Congolese wanted peace.
Wamba and the "consistent democrats" echoed the ideas of peace. Wamba sealed his break with the militarists and entrepreneurs when he traveled throughout the region meeting those who would listen to his proposals for peace. These meetings were considered to be against the interests of the RCD. Wamba had demanded an audit of the resources of the movement. Some said that this was unheard of in a Liberation movement. The organs of the RCD did not function and Wamba wanted to stop the pretense of being a figurehead in a movement where the finances, the military operations and the resources were being expended without any accountability.
This call for accounting, for negotiations and for peace was supplemented by the crafting of a reconstruction plan (the "11-point program"). The main elements of this reconstruction plan were for the exploitation of the resources of the Congo to be used for lifting the standards of living of the Congolese people. This was a declaration that the decades of plunder and enrichment of the political class would end. One can contrast the Bechtel plan of 1997 that focused on the rich minerals of the Congo and the plan of Wamba. The eleven point plan focused on democratization, sustainable peace, reconstruction of society and of the state, health, justice, the development of an environment favorable to all social classes, reformation of the army and the creation of an army that respects the laws of the country, economic reconstruction, promotion of national cultures with the transformation of the educational system, and responsible and accountable governance. The eleven-point reconstruction plan had as a common denominator the "preoccupation to anchor what the RCD wants to do in the context of the populations willingness for change." This plan set the RCD apart from all other political parties. The parties were noted for what they were opposed to, but not for what the plans were for the Congolese people. The RCD plan raised the quality of the political debate in the Congo away from the simple question of who will occupy the seat of power.
Brute Force or the revival of the palaver and the Sovereign National Conference.
If the Sovereign National Conference was the fifth sequence of emancipatory politics in Congolese history, then the process of removing Mobutu and establishing a new mode of politics will consist of the sixth sequence. Can the political players learn the strength and weaknesses of the sequences from the Kimbangu movement, the lessons of Lumumba, of Mulele, of the cultural struggles, and of the sovereign national conference? The experience of the sovereign national conference is still fresh in the memory of the population and one of the clear actions of Kabila was to violate the spirit and letter of the sovereign national conference that played a significant role in de-legitimizing the regime of Mobutu.
The use of brute force by Kabila, and by elements in the armed opposition has brought the ineffectiveness of militaristic solutions into the open. The military occupation of Kisangani by the RPA exposed the problems of reconstruction in Rwanda. Can Rwanda solve the political problems militarily? For how long can Rwanda maintain a military occupation of Eastern Congo? The issue of the arrest and trial of those who committed genocide in Rwanda in 1994 was the major demand of Rwanda. This demand must be supported with full legal, military and international guarantees that no one state take the law in their own hands. The arrest of the genocidaires is a matter that must be discussed and given top priority. This demand is now an accepted component of the Lusaka agreement. For this agreement to take root, Rwanda, Uganda and all other signatories must ensure that the peace process begin to take root. In this process, the internal and external questions of the use of the military come together. The Congo borders nine countries. Effective peace in the Congo, and a stable Congo will make a tremendous difference for the whole of the region of Eastern and Central Africa.
It is necessary to make comparisons with the Good Friday peace accord of 1998 in Ireland. One year after the peace accord, it is clear that there are elements on both sides that do not want the peace accord to succeed. After one hundred years of British colonialism and thirty years of armed struggle, the peace process involves far more than signatories. This recognition has led to intensified efforts to ensure that the demilitarization process proceed to the point where all of the people of Ireland can live in peace. The press and media do not portray the failure of this accord as the result of bloodthirsty tribal war.
The peace process in the Congo will encounter many obstacles. The thirty years of Mobutism and the eighty years of Belgian genocide weighs heavily on the Congo and on Africa. Peace is a process that requires a consistent fight against violence and warfare. It is too important to leave to armies and to leaders. The armies of Uganda, Rwanda, the Sudan and Angola must be pressured to respect the Lusaka peace accords. Ugandan officers should not be allowed to seek revenge and the Rwandan forces should withdraw from the streets of Kisangani. The effective limits on the military forces can only be placed by the mobilization of the people. Rwanda has demonstrated in Kisangani that it is afraid of political mobilization. The idea that politics can be separated from military struggles as manifested in the division of leadership of the Rwandan government is having negative implications.
The tasks of reconstruction are formidable. These tasks are bound up with the political movement that includes all of the Congolese people. This period that is called the national dialogue will be difficult but it must begin. The signatory of one or another faction will not decide this process. It will be decided by the engagement of the Congolese. This process is long overdue.
Syracuse, August 19, 1999
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