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Congo may be headed for war after talks fail
Reuters, via MSNBC ^ | 20 April 2002 | Reuters

Posted on 04/21/2002 11:58:16 PM PDT by Vigilant1

JOHANNESBURG, April 20 — The collapse of peace talks to end Africa's biggest war in the Democratic Republic of Congo could doom the former Zaire to prolonged conflict or even partition, analysts warned on Saturday.

Worse still, they said, the crisis in the mineral-rich state would re-ignite tensions and probably more direct fighting between neighbours Rwanda and Uganda, who each support rival rebel factions in Africa's third largest country.

On the economic front, failure to achieve peace in Congo would stunt economic development and deter badly-needed foreign investment in poverty-stricken and war-ridden Africa.

Talks to end the war and chart out a democratic future for the country ended in failure late on Friday after the government and the biggest rebel group, the Rwandan-backed Congolese Rally for Democracy, refused to yield on key issues.

These were the role of President Joseph Kabila in a transitional government ahead of pluralist elections and the role of the RCD rebels in a future government, as well as defence-related matters.

The impasse at the nearly four weeks of talks in South Africa centred on a separate deal signed by Kabila's government and a smaller Ugandan-backed rebel group, the Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC), headed by Jean-Pierre Bemba.

That accord, which the RCD and opposition political parties have rejected, keeps Kabila as head of state and designates Bemba as prime minister of the former Belgian colony.

''The failure of the talks is the greatest threat to peace since the ceasefire was signed in 1999,'' said Herman Hanekom, political analyst at the Pretoria-based Africa Institute and former ambassador to the Congo.

''It raises serious and real prospects for fresh fighting. In the absence of a deal I think the RCD will return to war.''

Hanekom said if the RCD proved as militarily strong as it had been in the past then the country could split.


''That country could be heading for a partition. This is a big reality now that the peace talks have collapsed,'' he said.

A cocktail of rebel groups supported by troops from Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda controls the east and large parts of the north of Congo in a stand-off with government troops, backed by Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe. These control the capital Kinshasa, the diamond centre of Mbuji Mayi, the west and parts of the copper-rich Katanga province.

''What has emerged is terrible. I give the Congo a 50-50 chance of war resuming. Normally when negotiations fail fighting becomes the alternative,'' said Claude Kabemba, a Johannesburg-based researcher on Congolese politics.

Kabemba said the deal between Kabila and Bemba, insignificant as it might appear, could give the government added military strength and encourage it to return to war against the RCD and Rwanda.

''This could restart direct tensions between Rwanda and Uganda with grave consequences for regional stability and security,'' he said.

The health of the neighbours' relationship is central to the future of Africa's Great Lakes region, still devastated by the 1994 Rwandan genocide and subsequent years of conflict in Congo.

Rwanda and Uganda were once inseparable allies. In 1996 they formed an alliance to topple the late Zairean President Mobutu Sese Seko and replace him with Laurent Kabila -- Joseph's father -- who was assassinated by his bodyguard last year.

Rwanda and Uganda invaded Congo again in 1998 in an ironic reversal of fortunes to try to overthrow Kabila, seen as having turned against his sponsors in the Great Lakes.

But Kigali and Kampala fell out over the conduct of war, and analysts say, the division of the spoils. They backed rival rebel groups and in 1999 fought heavy battles in the diamond city of Kisangani. Hundreds of civilians died as Rwanda defeated former comrade-in-arms Uganda.

Officials at the failed peace talks said it was clear Uganda had nudged Bemba to sign the deal with Kabila, putting the MLC and Uganda in direct conflict with Rwanda and the RCD.


''The potential for renewed hostilities between Rwanda and Uganda is real. Should war restart, Rwanda and the RCD could find themselves facing not only Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe but Uganda as well,'' an African envoy at the talks told Reuters.

Analysts said that if fighting broke out, Kabila's hope of survival is assured, given the backing from his southern African allies, whom industry sources say he has rewarded with a share in Congo's massive copper, diamond and other mineral wealth.

But for Africa at large, the news from the Congo is bad.

Analysts and diplomats say the chaos will retard economic development and deter foreign investment across the continent.

''We need peace in order for the region to attract investments. But events in Congo and turbulence in Zimbabwe give a negative spin on the whole region,'' Hanekom said.

TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; Front Page News; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: africa; africawatch; bemba; civilwar; congo; diamond; kabila; zaire

1 posted on 04/21/2002 11:58:16 PM PDT by Vigilant1
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To: Vigilant1
I wonder if the Dems will decry Bush's lack of engagement in Africa?
2 posted on 04/22/2002 12:12:29 AM PDT by Mike Darancette
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To: Vigilant1;AfricaWatch
Thank you for posting this... one of the sub-themes I keep trying to raise awareness about is

"the world is catching fire...."

The larger war against terrorism, and the brushfires burning in the Middle East are mirrored in a smaller way in the unrest in Africa, Latin America, and other hot spots across the globe.

Americans need to remain informed, and vigilant, and I will index this:


AfricaWatch: for AfricaWatch articles. 

Other Bump Lists at: Free Republic Bump List Register

3 posted on 04/22/2002 1:49:01 AM PDT by backhoe
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To: clive
4 posted on 04/22/2002 8:49:09 AM PDT by Free the USA
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To: backhoe, all
Modern weapons increase mortality in Congo battles

The Seattle Times
Monday, April 29, 2002 - 12:00 a.m. Pacific

KIGALI, Rwanda — Fighting between rival tribesmen in northeastern Congo has left scores of people dead and injured over the last two weeks, a Ugandan army spokesman said yesterday.

Maj. Shaban Bantariza said Lendu tribal militiamen, armed with assault rifles, machetes and bows and arrows, have killed "scores" of people from the smaller Hema tribe.

The Hema and Lendu communities have fought periodically for decades over tea and coffee farms and cattle that form the backbone of the local economy. The use of primitive weapons kept casualty figures low in the past. But following the outbreak of Congo's war in August 1998, the communities have been able to arm themselves with assault rifles and other light weapons.

Ugandan forces, who are in the country backing a rebel group in the civil war, have intervened and the killings have stopped, but the situation remains volatile, Bantariza said.

Government raid on rebels leaves 28 guerrillas dead KATMANDU, Nepal — Government forces attacked rebel training camps and hide-outs in the remote mountains of Nepal over the weekend, killing at least 28 guerrillas, the defense ministry said.

The latest government offensive came after a five-day nationwide strike ordered by the rebels ended Saturday. The strike shut down most of Nepal in the first two days, but businesses gradually reopened as people responded to the government's call to defy the rebels.

Guerrillas have waged an insurrection since 1996 in an attempt to topple the constitutional monarchy in the Himalayan kingdom and set up a communist state. More than 3,000 people have died in the fighting.

5 posted on 04/29/2002 5:34:13 AM PDT by Vigilant1
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To: Vigilant1
Modern weapons increase mortality in Congo battles... militiamen, armed with assault rifles, machetes and bows and arrows

Interesting semantics- it's kind of a stretch to include blades & bows in the mix. Of course, to an unarmed man, even something as crude as an ice pick is deadly....

6 posted on 04/29/2002 7:04:43 AM PDT by backhoe
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