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Wednesday, 18 December, 2002, 15:35 GMT
Q&A: Can the Congo peace deal work?
BBC News Online looks at the peace deal signed in South Africa this week by the Democratic Republic of Congo Government and the main rebel movements aimed at bringing peace and paving the way for elections in two years.

Will this mean the end of the war?

The scale of the conflict has been declining since the withdrawal of the majority of foreign forces two months ago.

This deal should end hostilities between the government and its allies, on one side, and the major rebel movement, the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD), on the other.

But it is not clear whether some of the smaller tribal and ethnic militias and small armed factions which have broken away from the rebel movements will lay down their guns.

No timetable has been set for the start of the demobilisation of armed groups and their integration into a national army and police force.

How will the peace deal work?

President Kabila will retain his post but will have four vice presidents, one appointed by each of the rebel groups, the government and the group of internal opposition parties.

Government portfolios will be distributed among these groups - it is reported that the largest rebel group, the RCD, will be allocated the defence and demobilisation ministry.

This will be a key post as under the deal the rebel armies and the government forces are to be integrated into a national army and a national police force.

The interim, power-sharing government will govern the country until elections for a new government are held in two years time.

Is there an UN role in the process?

The UN mission in DR Congo, known as Monuc, will continue to monitor the peace process. Monuc has already made plans to boost its numbers from 5,500 to 8,700 in the next few months.

This is still a tiny number to monitor complex military issues in a country as large and as inaccessible as DR Congo.

Monuc has the hard and continuing task of trying to locate, disarm and repatriate thousands of Rwandan Hutus who fled to Congo after the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Many of them are accused of involvement in the genocide.

What are the main obstacles to peace?

The rebel groups have had a mainly military role in the past four years and will have to adapt to political activity and find a willingness to compromise with other groups.

The government will have to see the rebels as partners and also find a way for all of them to work with the civilian politicians, who have been largely excluded from influence over the last four years.

The integration of the army and the forming of a national police force will also present huge administrative and logistical problems.

Is everyone part of the deal?

A major obstacle to peace is posed by the multiplicity of small, armed factions, ethnic militias and tribal conflicts.

The Mai Mai tribal militia in the east has, according to observers, been brought into the deal - they were involved in fighting with the Rwandans and the RCD.

There are two breakaway factions of the RCD which have been fighting the MLC rebels in the north and there is a long-running tribal conflict between the Hema and Lendu peoples near the Congo-Uganda border.

The Banyamulenge (Congolese Tutsis) have also been involved in the fighting in eastern Congo over the last four years, switching allegiances according to local conditions.

These diverse groups could easily destabilise a vulnerable peace process through local conflicts which drag in some of the major players or by making some areas of the country ungovernable.

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See also:

18 Dec 02 | Africa
17 Dec 02 | Africa
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03 Oct 02 | Africa
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