Representatives of the March 23 Movement, or M23, and the government of the Congo have been meeting in Kampala this week as a part of an International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, or ICGLR, mediated effort to bring the latest round of fighting to an end. We've seen this political theater many times before. On Sunday, a press conference dissolved into a flurry of accusations. On Monday, representatives for M23 boycotted the negotiations and the government delegation refused to participate in their absence. By Wednesday, the parties were still talking about an agenda. As Enough Project Co-founder John Prendergast argued at this week's House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the crisis in the Congo, this approach is "already making all of the same mistakes as its predecessor processes, and will likely result in the same kind of short-term deal" that has left Congo in an state of war for almost two decades.
As civilians in eastern Congo continue to suffer life under the control of a rotating cast of armed groups, another flimsy power sharing agreement, which ignores the deep-rooted issues driving the conflict, is not the solution. In a report released today, the Enough Project's Senior Policy Analyst Sasha Lezhnev and Co-founder John Prendergast suggest an alternate way forward. The second in a three-part-series on Congo's peace process, the report points to the critical political, economic, and security issues that must be put on the table to secure a lasting peace in the region.
Drawing on the lessons of the 2001-2003 inter-Congolese dialogues, the Enough Project has proposed a legitimate, inclusive, and internationally mediated peace process. The report discusses five key political topics that must be addressed as a part of this approach. While noting the need to respect Congo's political sovereignty, the report recommends greater decentralization so that provincial officials are empowered to govern. The report also argues that there is a pressing need for greater minority protections, especially for Congolese Tutsis. Lezhnev and Prendergast push for reforming the national land policy and highlight the need to address refugee repatriation and reintegration. Finally, the report underscores the vital nature of reforms to the political framework, particularly a legitimate plan for local elections.
In the economic sphere, the Enough Project suggests four steps that must be pursued in conjunction with the peace process. First, the report stresses the need to bring foreign direct investment into Congo by providing investors with incentives and facilitating compliance with Section 1502 of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, which requires companies to disclose their use of conflict minerals. In his testimony before Congress, Prendergast highlighted the report's recommendation for an investment conference focused on "peace mines." Second, the report proposes a common framework for regional investment and a renewed commitment to ensure that all mining concessions and exploration licenses are being utilized. Third, the report highlights the importance of border demarcation for successful cross-border investment projects. When the countries of the region tie their futures together economically, they will be less likely to revert to proxy war and conflict. Finally, the report notes the need to take action to close smuggling loopholes, which continue to plague Congo's extractive industries sector.
The report also tackles the security challenges that have crippled Congo in recent weeks. The report recommends an expanded mandate for the U.N. peacekeeping forces, or MONUSCO, stressing the value of specialized combat units. Additionally, the report pushes for expansive security sector reform. The report emphasizes the need for a multi-prong approach to reforming Congo's armed forces, suggesting the prosecution of some senior officials, immunity deals for others, and the implementation of a robust anti-corruption system. Finally, the report concludes with a call for accountability for the ICC indictees, Bosco Ntaganda and Sylvestre Mudacumura and others responsible for grave human rights violations.
TAKE ACTION: The U.S. government can help push for a real peace process in the Congo. We need to encourage the White House to take steps to ensure that the peace process addresses both the immediate crisis and the underlying longer-term economic and political interests of the parties. Send this letter Denis R. McDonough, the White House’s deputy national security advisor, and ask him to appoint a special envoy to work with an A.U./U.N. appointed mediator on these issues.
Photo: An M23 spokeman in the field (Enough)