Without coordinated international leverage, the talks underway between the Congolese government and the M23 rebels in Kampala, Uganda, will not resolve the conflict in eastern Congo. The current process, under the auspices of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, or ICGLR, and chaired by Uganda, has neither the necessary parties at the table nor sufficient international involvement to give it any chance of success.
Deep-rooted mistrust permeates the Great Lakes region and has poisoned the ongoing peace process. As a result,Rwanda and Uganda—key supporters of the M23 rebellion—are not participating in the talks as acknowledged parties to the conflict. Unfortunately, the M23 has gained stature and legitimacy from its presence at the negotiating table,but is under no pressure to make meaningful concessions. Congo, unable to deal with the war raging in its eastern provinces, agreed to participate in talks under the duress of the siege of Goma. Civil society stakeholders in eastern Congo do not have a way to make their views known. As a result, the process lacks players with an interest in ensuring that a final agreement actually addresses the region's chronic drivers of conflict: poor governance and inadequate political representation.
A workable process would require an effective mechanism for mediation, an invested international community, and stakeholders who see the practical and pragmatic costs and benefits of participating. A calibrated package of incentives and deterrents could help get the right parties to the table.
The United States and the United Nations should use their diplomatic and economic weight and legitimacy to induce regional stakeholders, including the governments of Rwanda and Uganda, to join the process, and once there, provide incentives for them to participate constructively. Coercive measures could include the threat of U.S. sanctions on Rwandan and Ugandan officials aiding the M23, as well as supporting the continued delay and potential cancellation of World Bank funds to Rwanda. Positive incentives from the international community could include signaling a willingness to address Rwanda and Uganda's security and economic concerns in eastern Congo and a commitment to facilitate increased international investment in the region and assistance for regional economic integration. Building collaborative economic ties between Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda will help create mutual interest in forging and maintaining peace in the Great Lakes region.
Both the United States and the United Nations should start to do this by appointing senior-level envoys. The United States must appoint a presidential envoy, supported by adequate staff and dedicated to the Great Lakes peace process. As a component of its role, that office can work to marshal political will within the international community for a coordinated approach to applying both the constructive and coercive leverage necessary to engage all regional stakeholders. The envoy would need the backing of the White House to be able to fully explore available diplomatic and economic tools. At the same time, the U.N. secretary-general should appoint a high-level U.N. envoy to serve as the mediator for the process. Ideally, the U.N. envoy would work in conjunction with regional multilateral bodies, including the African Union, or A.U., and the ICGLR to bring the parties to the table and keep them there using the international community's package of constructive and coercive incentives.
- Part One of the three-part series: A Broadened Peace Process Is Needed in Congo
- Part Two of the three-part series: 'What Is Not Said Is What Divides': Critical Issues for a Peace Process to End the Deadly Congo War