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The Council and the conflict resolution in the great lakes region

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Amici RaphaŽl

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The Council


the Democratic Federal Republic of Congo


Conflict Resolution in the Great Lakes Region


By Dr. AMICI RaphaŽl

President of the Council

African Diplomacy in the 21st Century
Achievements, Challenges and Prospects

A one-Day Conference

In conjunction with The Diplomatic Academy of London

University of Westminster

309, Regents Street


LONDON, Wednesday, MARCH 24, 1999

Head Office: P.O. Box 81

B-1200 Brussels (Belgium)

Fax : 00 32 2 662.21.51







I am honoured to address the conference on the "CONFLICT IN THE GREAT LAKES REGION".

I am Dr. RaphaŽl Amici the President of the Council of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. My Council strives through mediation and consultations to contribute to a peaceful resolution of the conflict in our country and our region.

We will therefore handle all aspects in an even handed and completely objective manner. The information in our paper is as factual and impartial as possible.

We will see that apart from the coup d’Etat deposing Mobutu led by Kabila and supported by members of the Tutsi tribe and supported by Uganda – there was for many years a linkage between the internal conflicts in the countries of the Great Lakes Region, comprising the DRC, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.

The overflow of conflict across international borders in the region was slowly but surely sowing the seeds of major conflict which was to grow and be ready to be harvested in time to come.

This time arrived when Kabila decided the time was ripe to violently oust Mobutu with the help of the Tutsis and also assistance from Uganda and others.

This event pulled the countries in the region and further afield into an armed conflict particularly when the same people who put Kabila into power turned against him and started the rebellion which is as yet unresolved.




Kabila’s drive toward Kinshasa was the beginning of trouble rather than the end, because of the political alignments in the region. Kabila failed to stabilize Zaire within the region and it collapsed into secessionist movements, the reverberations of which are felt all across Africa in the form of refugee movements, large scale war with Namibia, Angola and Zimbabwe pulled into the fray on the side of Kabila – in the heart of the African continent. Fighting against the Kabila alliance is the expelled Tutsis supported by Uganda.

The major part of understanding the roots of the present Great Lakes Conflict depends on understanding Rwanda and Burundi. The current war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is clearly linked to the instability in these two countries and the presence for generations of these countries people, the Tutsis and Hutus in eastern Zaire. The crisis of ex- Rwandan and ex – Burundian soldiers using refugees as human shields and launching cross border raids into Rwanda and Burundi was compounded by a terrible policy error on the part of Zaire.

In late September 1996 the Vice-Governor of the South-Kivu province told the Banyamulenge or ethnic Tutsis of the Mulenge Mountains in eastern Zaire to return to Rwanda despite at least two centuries of ancestry in the then Zaire.

The Vice-Governor’s order of ethnic expulsion was ill-timed, poorly- informed and deplorably bad strategy. It led to the immediate military mobilization of the Banyamulenge which provided Rwanda and Uganda with allied forces that could stop cross border incursions from opposition militias with limited direct involvement, and it allowed Kabila and other anti- Mobutu forces and opportunity to piggy-back this into a revolution against the Mobutu regime.

In just eight months this group of allied militias that included many Tutsis occupied one third of this huge central African country.

A geopolitical understanding that is fundamental to any effort to bring long term stability to the Great Lakes Region is to understand that the ethnic distribution of Hutus and Tutsis is not confined within political boundaries. Of some thirteen million people of Rwanda and Burundi approximately 85% are Hutu and 14% Tutsi.

However, two million of an estimated fifteen million Hutus and Tutsis are located across the boundaries of Rwanda and Burundi in neighboring states. Some four hundred thousand Tutsis, (and some Hutus) trace their ancestry to either the DRC’s North-Kivu province ( the Banyarwanda) or its South-Kivu province (the Banyamulenge).

These ethnic ties have created alliances such as the particularly strong one between President Museveni of Uganda whose revolutionary movement included many Tutsis, the minority Tutsi regimes in Rwanda and Burundi, and Kabila’s forces.

The Hutus have the sympathies of Tanzania, Kenya and even Sudan. In fact most of the region is aligned in the Hutu/Tutsi conflict and such that there is a delicate yet explosive web of alliances, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Kabila was in one camp allied with the Tutsis. Tanzania, Kenia, Mobutu’s Zaire and Sudan formed a camp more aligned with the Hutus. The possibility exists that the war in Sudan could become inter-linked with fighting in the Great Lake Region and to a degree that process has began. Sudan already supports rebel movements inside the DRC that launch attacks into Uganda.

The most significant long term consequence of the fighting in 1996 was the demise of the Mobutu regime. In a lightning series of military maneuvers (the logistics of which would have boggled the mind of super power military logisticians) this armed coalition in support of Kabila took over most of the Kongo between October 1996 and May 1997. By the time this army marched into Kinshasa, Kabila had the regional support not just of Rwanda and Uganda, but also – most importantly of South-Africa, Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Namibia. The international business lobby was also quick to make contact with the Kabila government – keen to invest in the countries ample natural resources.

Yet the triumph of Laurent Kabila brought formidable problems to the political and economic fronts in the DRC.

Reports that delayed development assistance to the Kabila government from Western sources by Human rights watch and Amnesty International in October 1997 accused Kabila’s army of series of massacres of fleeing Hutu refugees. The Kabila government with the support of Rwanda and Uganda, has resisted UN-sponsored investigations of these alleged massacres.

Kabila, although a nationalist, is an outsider to the complex politics of Kinshasa and his unwillingness to engage established political leaders like Etienne Tshisekedi was detrimental to his local support. His legitimacy has in any case been substantially eroded by the popular perception of him as a captive of a "foreign" Tutsi army and of his forces as external occupiers who do not understand the capital city’s lingua franca, Lingala. (Zaire belonged to Gbadolite – Mobutu’s palace and Kinshasa – home of his Administrators and Security forces – for the past thirty years).

So then in a matter of two years history repeated itself. Under pressure from established political realities of Kinshasa and the local population in general Kabila also ordered the Tutsis to go home to Rwanda.

There then followed the most incredible re-organisation of alliances – Uganda, Rwanda and the Tutsis who put Kabila into power mobilised against him. A Tutsi led rebellion erupted against the Kabila government supported by Uganda. On the side of Kabila Namibia, Angola and Zimbabwe entered the fray – concluding a seemingly never ending cycle of political and violent conflict in the Great Lakes Region.



The factors comprising the historical and present conflict in the region are as discussed under the heading – THE ROOTS OF THE CONFLICT IN THE GREAT LAKES REGION and to sum up they are:

A Ethnic divisions and animosity between tribes.

B Colonial boundaries leaving parts of ethnic groups stranded across international borders.

C Dictatorships replacing colonial powers and coup d’etats’s replacing dictators.

D A new unique approach to conflict resolution in the Great Lakes Region and UN and OAU participation.

E Democratic rule in the region.

Due to the time limitations I propose to only deal with – A NEW AND UNIQUE APPROACH TO CONFLICT RESOLUTION IN THE GREAT LAKES REGION and OAU and UN participation plus THE ROAD TO DEMOCRATIC RULE IN THE REGION.

As is very evident from the factors discussed above there now exist very deep seated and detrimental issues complicating conflict resolution in the area.

MY COUNCIL OF THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO is convinced that because of the deep seated animosities between peoples and between leaders in the region a new and unique approach towards solving the conflict in the region will achieve the sought after success.

We believe that use should be made of the oil drop principle- by putting the DRC on the road to national re –conciliation, negotiations and forming a strong government of national unity.

The political and violent conflict in the DRC must be resolved in the first instance. We have a perfect role model to follow in the recent developments in the Republic of South Africa which resolved one of the most complicated racial conflicts on the Continent of Africa.

It is suggested to make use of mediating councils such as the Council of the Democratic Republic of Congo to bring leaders in the Congo together because of the historic and present tensions existing between leaders and heads of state in the region. Official approaches at inter State or International organisation level will be very unlikely to produce results.

I and my council members have not been involved in recent conflicts and tension in the area between states and political leaders. We are able to totally objectively mediate between leaders and to promote the process of negotiation and reconciliation.

Councils such as ours could contract International Mediation Consultants to assist in the process of mediation and negotiation. We are already very ably assisted by such a consultancy company. We could have made significant progress in the DRC if it was not for the financial limitations of our Council.

So we believe that Councils such as ourselves supported by private enterprise should pave the way towards reconciliation and negotiation in the DRC to overcome the tensions existing between political leaders in the DRC and the divergent alliances at inter state level in the Region.



It could be anticipated that should mediation and reconciliation succeed – as it must eventually – there may remain pockets of armed resistance which will have to be dealt with. One such element might be the administrators and members of the security apparatus of the Mobutu regime.

These are mostly brilliant and very capable people exploited by Mobutu to sustain and prolong his dictatorship. My Council will however be in touch with these people also. A process of amnesty is inevitable to bring these capable people home because the DRC will need all its capable human resources to restructure the country once democratic rule has been established.

In order to deal with other trouble spots in the DRC and to avert any interference in the reconciliation process in the DRC from across its borders OAU and UN support will have to be called upon. And finally the OAU and the UN will be required to carry the baby back into the cradle of the International community.




Placing the DRC irreversibly on the road to democratic rule will have profound influence on the Great Lakes Region. It is difficult to see that success of the DRC could not be repeated in its neighboring states. My Council is convinced that reconciliation and negotiation leading to a government of national unity, an excellent democratic constitution and free and fair elections in the DRC is possible and thereafter the conflict in the Great Lakes Region could be resolved step by step.


















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