This coming Thursday and Friday Washington, D.C., will host the latest meeting of the International Contact Group on the Great Lakes region. Since the early 2000s, the contact group, a body that consists of representatives from the United States, United Kingdom, France, Belgium, the European Union, and the United Nations, has met on a quarterly basis to focus on political, diplomatic, security, and development issues in the Great Lakes region of Africa. A new Enough Project report, “The International Contact Group and Steps Towards Stability in the Great Lakes” by Enough Policy Analysts Ashley Benner and Aaron Hall, presents key policy recommendations that the contact group should adopt to further promote peace, development, security, and economic diversification in the Great Lakes.
Given the depth of knowledge the representatives attending the meetings possess—both about the diplomatic world and the realities on the ground—the contact group meeting provides a unique opportunity for key donor countries to coordinate regional policy.
Recent developments in the region, including the fraudulent Congolese elections, the continued deterioration of security along the Rwanda-Congo border, and the deployment of U.S. military advisors to the region to pursue the Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA, have brought the Great Lakes nations to a critical turning point. It is from within this context that coordinated, harmonized political and diplomatic efforts from the key donor countries of the contact group can have a significant impact.
The contact group’s policy focus neatly aligns with Enough’s key issue areas. The four main policy subjects to be discussed at the upcoming meeting in Washington are the Congolese elections, security sector reform in Congo, conflict minerals, and armed groups and regional dynamics, including the LRA. Enough’s policy recommendations for the contact group are as follows:
- Call for the resignation and reconstitution of the Congolese electoral body, CENI, in order to make it a more equitable and representative body.
- Enact strong consequences and accountability measures for electoral fraud and manipulation by the current government.
- Strongly and publicly condemn all state-led efforts to suppress citizens’ rights.
Security Sector Reform in Congo
- Focus coordinated assistance on the opportunity with greatest potential to affect change—military justice, which both fights impunity and reforms army behavior.
- Address the issue of pay to soldiers and other military personnel.
- Lead a sustained and coordinated security sector reform package with the government of Congo and national army, in concert with key donors possessing military expertise, as well as significant bottom-up input from civil society organizations, women’s groups, and local leaders.
- Work with the U.S. government to begin a multilateral negotiation process to form an internationally agreed upon certification scheme for conflict minerals.
- Support the establishment of a regional monitoring mechanism to verify whether mines and traders are conflict-free.
Armed Groups and Regional Dynamics, including the LRA
- Engage vigorously with governments in and outside the Great Lakes region and the African Union to secure more capable troops to apprehend the LRA’s senior leadership and protect civilians.
- Coordinate to provide more robust intelligence and transport capabilities vital to enabling the troops to locate key LRA commanders, analyze LRA activity, identify threats to civilians, and act quickly on information.
- Pursue a two-tiered defection strategy that encourages LRA commanders and rank-and-file fighters to leave the group, adding a pull factor to the push factor of the military strategy.
Read the full report “The International Contact Group and Steps Towards Stability in the Great Lakes”
Photo: Congolese soldiers marching in formation (Enough / Laura Heaton)