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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 August 2006, 12:21 GMT 13:21 UK
Should Congo deal with its past?
DR Congo soldier
Congolese have cast their ballots and the election appears to have been peaceful, but how should the country deal with its violent past?

Many of the people who will take up positions of power have been accused of human rights abuses and war crimes. Some are well known former warlords and rebels. Should they be persecuted or should the past, be left in the past?

And the United Nations - it has signed peace deals with former militiamen who will now be given jobs in the national army - what message does that send about the international community's willingness to prosecute the accused?

Should the country convene a South African style truth and reconciliation committee, or leave the pursuit of justice to the International Criminal Court? Should those who have suffered, like women who have been sexually abused, child soldiers and refugees who have had to flee the country be compensated, and if so how?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

Your comments:

Congo (DR) need to deal with its past by looking more at the enemy that is outside itself rather than inside itself. It will not be able to do that unless it is more educated than it is. The African Union and the United Nations should help Congo to do just that rather than thinking of sending the victims of world greediness to the Hague.
Philing Kop, Kaduna, Nigeria

Sometimes one wonder's if laws are meant to protect everyone. It is obvious that minds behind wars are wicked and so little that they don`t mind their consequences, thus giving them immunity sends the wrong message to others. Africa should wake up, as the destruction of one's own country and people is absolute madness. My point here is that when things are back to normal, whoever showed havoc should sure reap it.
Ousman Cham, Gambian, Rhode Island, U.S.A.

Congo on its own will be incapable of maintaining any sustainable peace. There is still an overwhelming presence of armed groups in the country of foreign origin. Peace to them is irrelevant. There is a real need for both the African Union and the United Nations to send in troops to safeguard this fragile struggle for a workable democracy. If that can be done, then the war mongers can be brought to justice. The suggestion that the country be broken up into smaller republics, coming from some one in a country equally as big as Congo, (South Africa) which has no vision of breaking up is the corniest and saddest commentary coming from an African.
Che Sunday, San Francisco/USA

Four million men, women and children have died as a direct result of this war. These crimes cannot not go unaccounted for. The leaders who committed these atrocities cannot just hide behind political parties and be elected to rule over the very people they brutally terrorised unrepentantly. Those who are responsible for this genocide have to confess their crimes so that the people of the Congo can begin to heal their wounds. For all the orphans and sexually abused women, there should be compensation to allow them a second chance. The truth and reconciliation commission should not be seen as a justification for good governance but as a way to heal wounds of the past. Whatever party that wins this election, it is my hope that they will place public interest as a priority over personal interest by setting an agenda on issues that the public considers very important such as health care, education, infrastructure and the economy.
Marc Pandi, Victoria, British Columbia

If the DRC comes out of this election as one united country let the terms of reference used by South Africa's truth and reconciliation committee be used. DRC has never known peace.If it comes now let it last. Bury the past and open a new page.
Harry, Meulaboh, Indonesia

It will be diversionary for the Congolese to be asking questions on their past. They should try to put it behind them, the painful ugly past and focus on how they can build a better future for all Congolese. There are huge natural resources in Congo to quickly launch the country into great economic fortune. But one problem that Congo will need to be bold and confront is the greed of some western powers that have feasted on their God given resources. Until date, the wealth of this great enclave has been hijacked by the western imperialists who, once again would be keen to beguile Congolese leadership to perpetuate their selfish economic interests. They murdered Patrice Lumumba, balkanised Congo into two countries and installed their puppet, Mobutu Seseseku. It is the greed of the west that is the problem!

I believe truth and reconciliation committee is the key to the peaceful Congo.They have suffered enough and i don't think prosecuting the accused people will bring peace after all, they will be the power holders, so it wont be easy for them to agree prosecution. About the sexually abused women and children, i believe counselling and again reconciliation is the answer.I do not think there is anything or any amount that can compensate for the innocence and the humanity they have lost,they were physically hurt but more mentally, which can not be compensated by anything other than love and peace.The past will always be in their history but they have to move on.
MEAB MDIMI, Dar es Salaam,Tanzania

In the case of Congo, I do not think so. Though South Africa and my own country Ghana, have gone through that, I will not like to see Congo following suit. Just because, so many countries such as BELGIUM, will have to answer to some many questions for their part in the killing of LUMUMBA and others. Not forgetting the other foreign nationals who are still stealing that nation's wealth. Congo have gone through pain and agony, the world should help her to stand up on her feet, instead of bringing back sad memories.
Prince Tony Abban Brown, Amsterdam,Netherlands

In my opinion, this IS NOT one of the situations in which one can say "let sleeping dogs lie". The DRC has to deal with her past, violent though it may be, because we risk having our brothers and sisters venting their pent-up anger after some years. (Take a look at Rwanda). Even if those who have suffered don't receive any compensation (which they should), being able to share their experiences with the world and being assured that justice will prevail, already helps to heal some of the wounds. Our African ancestors have always said "too much meat doesn't spoil the soup" and so I think having a "South African style truth and reconciliation committee working in collaboration with the International Criminal Court doesn't spoil anything. The problem however is, who is going to convene this TLC since those in power were and are the warlords?
Maxwell, Kinshasa, DR Congo

The truth and reconciliation commission is the first step forward, but its purpose should be to show those that suffered that they are not forgotten, and those that abused others that it is un-African to do so. It should light the path to true forgiveness and not vengeance. The only way the international community can help is by giving loans, mine-clearing, demobilisation etc. Let their help not come through the ICC which simply enriches some Western law professors who take years gathering 'evidence' on obvious cases.
Kingsley Jika, Zomba, Malawi

I am a congolese, yes I think it is very important and crucial to deal with our past before any kind of good future can being to take place. A truth and reconciliation committee would be very relevant for the congolese to be able to bring about a lasting peace and reconciliation. There are so many truths that all the congolese people must know. We must reach a point whereby the wrong doer will have to acknowledge that he wronged his fellows and for the wronged to forgive. but all that is to be done should be done in the light of justice and grace, the wrongdoers must accept that they deserve to be sentenced. All this requires a kind of, what I may call a "contextual justice" and "contextual theological thinking" on the issues. I strongly believe therefore that it is crucial for we congolese to deal with our past before aiming for any sort of decent future. Rev Mande
Mande, mutare/zimbabwe

I think it is time to forget the past and maybe use the South African style of reconciliation to heal the wounds in the peoples hearts but also taking into account the families who have been affected. Almost all of the leaders have directly and indirectly committed crimes and abuses until today then who should be prosecuted and not? i believe almost of the leaders are liable for prosecution if the investigations are truly fairly inclusive and impartial. The crime in DR Congo started since the first war in 1996 until today none of so called Presidents, Vice-Presidents, generals or many of the officers army should have the privileges of the positions they have in the country! so let's start with new directions and structures after the elections, that i might believe was fair and transparent in order to avoid any unrest and rise of uncertainty.
Konomo Fogbia, Newcastle

Adherence to Human Rights Promotion and Protection in Africa; the role of Justice. The violation of human rights of many people particularly in the developing countries has continued unabated as a result of lack of or inadequate justice meted out to the perpetrators. This situation of lack of/inadequate justice has undoubtedly helped to fuel lots of conflicts in Africa since the perpetrators know they can do anything and get away with it. While some people may advocate for truth and reconciliation commissions for the resolution of serious long term human rights violations during conflicts, these commissions tend to be very lenient with the perpetrators in the name of "peace". I believe strongly, that justice is an integral part of any reconciliation process. Justice does not only bring hope to the victims but relieves the perpetrators from a serious burden that could potentially be some sort of life imprisonment without parole. When justice is applied correctly and fairly, the final result (often long term) is a "lighter" heart for both the victims and perpetrators. The establishment of courts mainly concerned with human rights issues in all the continents just goes a long way to elucidate the important and necessity of justice in the promotion and protection of human rights. Through these courts lots of violators of human rights have been summoned and brought to book such as Milosovic and his allies of the former Yugoslavia and Charles Taylor of Liberia. Once more, I strongly believe justice is an integral part in the promotion and protection of human rights, at no time should it be sacrificed for something; be it peace or reconciliation. Justice is the only weapon the poor, underprivileged and often abused victims have. Trading with justice will be like trading with survival. To live this dream we have to be the surrogate voices for the victims of these heinous crimes. The so called war lords of Congo have to face justice. The people of Congo need to see justice to be done before peace can fully be restored to the country; remember peace isn't only the absence of war, peace of mind is the best.CHI Primus C.Cameroon country coordinator for the International Centre for Conflict and Human Rights Analysis (ICCHRA)
Chi Primus, Bamenda, Cameroon

Not investigating the past in DR. Congo would be like in Liberia, where people believed that that AK-47's provided the fastest opportunities for wealth than professional training . Individuals who made their way to Power in DR. Congo by butchering helpless women and children must be dragged to the door of Justice . Today in Liberia , notorious war lords and ex-rebel executives are seen flying the streets of Monrovia as honourable men. Individuals that committed war crimes in DR. Congo must be brought to book. Do not make the mistake that we made in Liberia .TRC in Liberia provided the Ticket for Human Right Abusers to Escape Justice
Zolu Gobah, Monrovia

Sometimes the past is better left there in the past. Let sleeping dogs lie. Congo must now try to forge ahead and make a better future for the people of Congo. Of course people should be compensated if there's the need, but if compensation turns political it could result in another problem. We must put it in mind that Congo has a different history from South Africa. We cannot forget history but sometimes we must let go of bitter past for a sweeter tomorrow
George Onmonya Daniel, Abuja, Nigeria

What i would first say, is that the great plants depend on their roots to live. As true africans,like we in South Africa after suffering during the apartheid era,we only forgave but we will never ever forget. So, for my side the congolese should have the reconciliation committee which will help them to deal with their past,but they should not forget but forgive. That's from Jeffrey from the university of johannesburg south africa.
Jeffrey, Johannesburg, South Africa

What can a child learn from a violent Dad? Leaning is based on daily life and opportunities that it offers. As Congolese our horrible human experiences has been caused by the western support of a wrong leader. They supported Mobutu, and now Joseph Kabila who was a soldier fighting (killing Congolese) for his Dad. No, Congo should deal with its future. Build roads, build hospitals, and please may the West support a good leader, not a killer.
jeje Mobali, London United Kingdom

Any attempt to dig through the past of a country like the DRC will be tantamount to opening new wounds, and that would be a recipe for more confusion. The money to be spent on such a venture could be better off used in a more productive area. So, why not forget about truth and reconciliation commission.
kemo cham, University of the Gambia

. Forget the warlords, the biggest item of baggage the DRC has inherited is its size. Its colonially-made borders must be redrawn; preferably by turning the country into at least three or four republics. The first should be the diamond-rich Kasai; the second Katanga, which is more tied to southern Africa than to Kinshasa; the fourth Kisangani to the Great Lakes, which is part of East Africa and the fourth the rest of the country for which the navigable river system is the core. As it is, the country is just too big to manage. That said, any step towards a solution such as this election should be supported but it might be one terribly small step towards a lasting solution.
Duncan, Johannesburg, SA

I think it is absolutely necessary to convene a Truth and Reconciliation Commission so that the truth can be known. While it is necessary that those who have perpetrated the greatest crimes against humanity should be brought to justice, DRC's civil war was a form of "interregional war within Congo" therefore it would be difficult to prosecute the various rebellious henchmen. Perhaps, peace and reconciliation should be the major focus for now. It is necessary that all measures to ensure the consolidation of peace be implemented. Justice can follow later as in the case of Sierra Leone.
Sigismond Wilson, Sierra Leonean in USA

The lack of accountability in Africa have been a long-standing problem, it is imperative that we start on the right foot therefore we must pursue justice. After all justice is one of the main pillars of democracy, anything less would deem futile this all process. Due to the lack or weakness of the institutions of the state, the international community shall provide adequate support in this process.
Ayind, N, USA

Women who have been sexually been abused should be compensated. The pursuit of justice by the International Criminal Court should ensure that those behind the crisis in Congo should face the music.
Abdi Mandera, Kenya

Peace comes with a peace of mind. Now that they have shown peace by casting the votes without any noise this shows that people in Congo will have peace if they choose to have it. Yes, the past will always haunt the people of Congo but life should continue. We are in the world we have to remember that. All I can say is let there be peace in Congo and may the chosen one lead the country without fear or favour. God bless the people of Congo.
Kobe, Minnesota, USA

Dealing with the past is a difficult venture and I believe that any nation that wants to move forward must let the past be that. It has the opportunity of creating more pain,accusation that will not let peace be toward development.
Noah Nash, Cape Coast, Ghana

Let's consider the past as water under the bridge and let's focus on the big picture of the country.The idea of a TRC is a brilliant idea but saying that all those affected and displaced by the war should to be compensated then all Congolese must be on the list because all directly and indirectly suffered since the Late Mr. Mobutu's regime. Congolese must avoid to go too deep in the details forget the big picture. Let's concentrate on things of first need like roads, farming... then other things will follow. Congolese have done already a great step forward by going to the polls and this mustn't be something null an void. The break is over, let's work.
Robert Lombo, Johannesburg, South Africa

I guess we should not use the past as tool of condemnation for others, rather we all should pay respect to it and get together for its sake and the future of the Congo
Ken K. Ndalamba, Middletown, USA

I won't comment on your main question but surely you meant to ask of the Congolese who have been elected :should they be prosecuted and not should they be "persecuted".
Susan Cote-Freeman, Washington, DC

Peace should be the ultimate gold for now. Convening any reconciliation committee is a mere waste of time. If peace can prevail, then compensation will come without any body requesting for it. Let's bygone-be-bygone!
Eric Mbumbouh Bamenda, Cameroon

Should there be no enquiry into the past, that would mean any person anywhere can follow an atrocious political agenda...kill, maim, murder,rape,pillage without risk of accountability, and then steam roll themselves into political influence without shame. I am very afraid of the seeds that we are sowing.
Sandile Dakamela, JHB, South Africa

Despite the painful past, the Congolese should forgive and forget. Any attempt to dig into the atrocities committed in the past will only ignite hatred. The truth and reconciliation style will not work in the Democratic Republic of Congo because the South African society is not the same as that of the DRC. The congolese should bury the psat behind them and forge new relationships based on brotherhood and love for one another.
Enock Maturwe, Nairobi, Kenya

We all know and expect Congo DRC to go through another terrible time. Congo is still vulnerable to another war. The USA and United Kingdom started Congo's trouble. Why war in the Congo?, we want partition Kabila is a man who cannot communicate and a man who can't communicate" can kill easily. Ask yourself Is he a manager or a Leader ?. Please, Britain, America fix him to go back where he came from. William Pashi
William Pashi, United Kingdom

The Congolese people should decide their own future whether they want to forgive and forget the past or not. It is up to Congolese to think clearly on what might be good for them either to live together in peace, its not the job of the United Nations.
Peter Tuach, Minnesota,USA

It is unfortunate that the war over the years has done some serious damages to lives, properties and the nation in general. It is very important for the perpetrators of the war to be brought to justice. That way the injured, raped, maimed and dead will begin the process of healing. The crime against the people is just too heinous to be swept under the carpet. If the perpetrators are not persecuted, the maimed and the injured will not find healing and closure. The government can adopt any form of a justice system, as long as the perpetrators are brought to book. There should be some form of compensation for the women, child soldiers and the refugees. The government should start by providing counsellors to work with the people in order to ascertain their state of mind and find out what they would like to do. The child soldiers could be given scholarships to further their education or sent to trade schools to learn specific skills and help them with small loans to establish at the completion of the program. Also, the government should provide low cost housing for the people and other social amenities for the better. It will take years for the country to get back on its feet.
Omorodion Osula, Boston, USA

Whatever the process is, it should protect those it is trying to help. I think the problem would lie in people coming forward to give testimony and not giving them proper protection, should the wrong people find out about their participation in the process there could be trouble.
Elise, Los Angeles, CA

Western contacts and influence in Congo and in Africa from the 15th Century to this day has been a nightmare and a disaster to the entire African people. We have just witnessed the western imposed democracy in Congo which to me is a sham, since those with vision for the country like Etienne Tchisekedi and others did not participate. What we have now seen is a masqueraded form of democracy, the type that suits the western political intrigues in Africa. What will then happen to minority communities within the Congo? We need African solutions to African problems. That said, I support the trial of those with blood on their hands (even if they are in power). I will suggest that the issue to judge warlords and rebels be put to vote so that the affected communities within DR Congo can decide, and if they be tried, that should be the responsibility of the Congolese people and not the International Criminal Court, which is another western political institution.
Ambiance Bohboh, Antwerp, Belgium

Yes, Congo should deal with its past in order to move forward. As human beings our past influences our future. The people of Congo should reflect on the past, learn from it and make sure their future is devoid of the mistakes of the past. Long live Zaire! Long live the DRC! May your future be as bright as the rising sun. Long live Mother Africa!
Vivian Toku-Afriyie, Ghanaian in the U.S.A

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