Answer given by Mr Michel on behalf of the Commission
The predictable failure of the military initiatives undertaken end of 2007 by the Congolese authorities in order to end the sedition of General Nkunda's forces in North Kivu has highlighted the need to search for a political solution based on a dialogue between all the parties concerned. Such an approach — strongly supported by the international community — has resulted in setting up two parallel, but deeply correlated processes.
Firstly, there are the negotiations between the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda to tackle the question of the Rwandese FDLR(1) (ex-Far-Interahamwe), residing in the eastern DRC since 1994 where they control vast territories and important parts of local economy. The process — taking place in the framework of the ‘Tripartite Plus’(2) since 2005 under the auspices of the United States, the EU, the United Nations (UN) and the African Union (AU) — has in particular resulted in the November 2007 Nairobi Joint Communiqué and commitments taken by the DRC, including development of an Action Plan for FDLR dismantlement due to start from 15 March 2008. The plan, which is yet to become effective, includes cantonment, disarmament and repatriation of the FDLR to Rwanda (a certain number of FDLR members could nevertheless be allowed to stay in the DRC, providing that they are not wanted for war crimes or crimes against humanity). In the second phase, military pressure, coupled with international diplomatic pressure, should complete the process.
The follow-up of the Nairobi process consists of a Joint Monitoring Group (JMG) that regularly gathers the concerned parties as well as the international facilitation.
Secondly, a conference on the two Kivus was organised in Goma from 6 to 23 January 2008 — in the aftermath of the military defeat of the FARDC(3) in Mushake. The objective of the conference was to search for a negotiated solution concerning the military groups active in the Kivus (particularly the CNDP(4) of General Nkunda). It resulted in a ceremonial signature of the ‘Acts of Engagements’ between the DRC Government and 22 rebel movements (nine for the North Kivu and 13 for the South Kivu). These acts have served as a basis for a cease-fire (monitored under the auspices of MONUC(5)) and shall lead to progressive military disengagement — with definitive military demobilisation or integration through brassage of the different groups into the national army.
The Acts also foresee an amnesty (except for war crimes) and the return of refugees. At the same time, a fairly complex follow-up structure of the programme of peace, security and development — namely the AMANI programme — under the coordination of Abbé Malu-Malu, has been put in place by the DRC Government. While the programme foresees the establishment of many structures of discussion and negotiation regarding the implementation of the commitments Acts, the most important compromises will undoubtedly be reached in the Mixed Technical Commissions for Peace and Security for North and South Kivu. These Commissions, co-presided by a government representative and the MONUC, officially started working on 8 April 2008. Their agenda includes deciding upon the modalities for the disengagement, brassage, demobilisation/reintegration as well as return of refugees.
One of the credits of the Nairobi and Goma initiatives has been to put back the FDLR question at the heart of the issue, at a moment where focus was almost exclusively being given to local rebels, as well as to install a cease-fire between the FARDC and General Nkunda’s troops.
Nevertheless, the success of both the Goma and Nairobi processes are not devoid of uncertainties and risks.
In particular, the FDLR question still requires a long diplomatic effort. Any real progress in the talks to be engaged in the follow-up to Goma, which as described above still need to sort out quite difficult issues, also depends on resolving the FLDR question, while both processes, stricto sensu, have no ‘functional link’ with each other. In addition, the evolution of the Rwanda-Congo relations, still marked by recent history, will also be a key factor in the success of both processes, as Kigali and Kinshasa certainly hold important leverage to bring the Kivu crisis stakeholders to challenging compromises.
All this leads to the belief that any sustainable solution for the ‘Kivu crisis’ will take time and will most probably be achieved step by step.
Nonetheless, it cannot be denied that Goma, as much as Nairobi, have set off a new local dynamic. It is the first time in a long while that all the parties concerned by the conflict have been involved in finding a solution.
This is a good reason for the international community to continue supporting the two processes and promote further convergence between them in the future.