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 Friday, 20 December, 2002, 15:09 GMT
Africa press sees pitfalls in DR Congo accord
Africa Media Watch
African newspapers give a cautious welcome to the peace agreement for the Democratic Republic of Congo signed on Tuesday in South Africa.

However, many commentators question the sincerity of the signatories and warn that the continent is replete with examples of similar accords which have failed dismally.

The situation could fast degenerate into turmoil

Commentator in Uganda's New Vision

Under a complex deal, President Joseph Kabila will remain in his post for two years, but rebel forces and the political opposition will be given government portfolios, including three of the four vice presidential posts.

In Uganda, whose troops fought in the DRC on the rebel side, a commentator in New Vision fears that the situation in the region "remains fragile and explosive".

Discouraging precedents

John Kakande argues that "it would be a mistake for the international community to think that the situation in the region has stabilised".

Rwanda and Burundi, as well as DR Congo, "need to be watched closely". "The situation could fast degenerate into turmoil in these countries. Pressure must be exerted on the warring parties to abide by the peace accords."

We know from experience that war agreements have never been successfully implemented

DR Congo's L'Avenir

"The Rwanda political crisis precipitated the DRC war," he argues, warning that regional leaders and the international community are doing little to contain the continuing political unrest in Rwanda which threatens the whole Great Lakes region.

In DR Congo itself, a front page piece in L'Avenir points to the situation in Angola, Rwanda and Burundi as reasons for pessimism.

"Angola even organised elections, but the country was soon plunged into war... In Rwanda, the RPF [Rwandan Patriotic Front] forces entered Kigali in the framework of the Arusha Agreement, Habyarimana was assassinated and the country was plunged into a cycle of violence... In Burundi, more than one agreement was signed but never implemented."

"We know from experience that war agreements have never been successfully implemented."

Amid hopes loomed a powerful fear

South Africa's Mail and Guardian

A report in South Africa's Mail and Guardian points to the failure of a similar accord in Sierra Leone.

It quotes a radio journalist in Kinshasa as saying the agreement "carries the seeds of conflict".

"Amid hopes... loomed a powerful fear: Doubt whether any deal that set old rivals together in control of Congo's vast wealth was really a peace deal at all," the Mail and Guardian says.

"In Sierra Leone, an earlier power-share peace plan pushed by international mediators - much similar to Congo's - failed bloodily."

Landmark decision

An opinion piece in The Times of Zambia hails the accord as "a landmark decision for this country which has not known real peace since its independence in 1960".

DR Congo will be put to a "great test", The Times continues, in an effort to overturn a situation in which one of the continent's richest countries has been "robbed of development through the senseless and ceaseless war" which has "economically enriched others and impoverished the Congolese".

The political parties and armed formations should move mountains

South Africa's Star

"The time to reverse this is now. The agreement should be allowed to succeed. The signatories to the pact owe it to their suffering nationals not to allow petty concerns to scupper this latest chance at peace."

For the editor of South Africa's The Star, the accord "is a major step in the search for long-lasting peace and stability for a nation decimated by one of Africa's most senseless wars".

"While the deal has been signed and sealed, the time to pop the champagne has not yet arrived. Now the hard part begins."

'Silent guns'

"The political parties and armed formations involved in the peace talks should move mountains to ensure that the agreement is implemented."

The editor calls on the African Union and the United Nations "to also come to the party to ensure that guns in the DRC remains silent for ever".

No need to beat the drums nor the tam-tams

Kinshasa's La Tempete Des Tropiques

"Failure to ruthlessly implement this pact is something that the people of the DRC, Africa and the world cannot afford."

Back in Kinshasa, Le Potentiel cautions that "much remains to be done to obtain the approval of all the parties. The text has not been signed wholeheartedly by everybody."

Le Palmares notes that Congolese "expect to see this agreement translated into concrete actions".

And La Tempete Des Tropiques remains singularly unimpressed. "No need to beat the drums nor the tam-tams; no need to blow car horns; no need to give three cheers; in short no need for scenes of cheer in Kinshasa after the signing."

More upbeat was a report in the Nigerian daily Vanguard. "The signing of the Democratic Republic of Congo peace pact in Pretoria on Tuesday was a festival of prayer, song, tears, hugs and ululations."

"The DRC's exhausted political elite - government, opposition and rebels - eventually bowed to domestic and international pressure."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

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