Great Lakes Initiative
An international conference on the Great Lakes region, initially scheduled for December, has been postponed with no new date set yet. However, the idea is emerging, promoted by Tanzania as Council President for January, of a major focus in the Council in January on the regional dimensions of the Great Lakes situation.
A Council mission visited the Great Lakes region of Africa in early November. Four main themes came out of that visit:
In Burundi, Council members were somewhat surprised at the government’s apparent desire to see the UN Operation in Burundi (ONUB) wound up quickly. But Council members remained concerned at the dangers posed to stability in the country by an early withdrawal. The regional dimension was an important element in this.
In the DRC, the mission helped to clarify the need for the Council to take a firmer line against armed groups in eastern DRC provinces, particularly the Rwandan Hutu rebels Forces démocratiques pour la libération du Rwanda (FDLR). Those groups continue to resist disarmament requirements and their presence gives rise to concerns by regional neighbours, and to justifications for violating the DRC arms embargo.
A sharper appreciation of the regional dimensions of security and stability in the Great Lakes emerged. This includes risks from foreign fighters in the DRC and also the threats posed by the Ugandan rebel group Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), elements of which, after several months of activity in the DRC, recently crossed the border back into south Sudan.
The Council mission seems to have clarified the inter-linkage between effective sanctions enforcement by neighbours, and the need for action within the DRC to reduce regional security concerns.
Four main lines of activity consequently emerged in the Council:
ONUB’s mandate was temporarily rolled over and finally renewed in late December in resolution 1650 (2005). This included a particularly interesting regional characteristic. Provisions were included to permit cooperation and transfer of forces between ONUB and the United Nations Mission in the Congo (MONUC).
With encouragement from Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, Council members adopted resolution 1649 (2005) tightening sanctions against foreign militias in the DRC. The resolution also indicates that MONUC could play a role in forcibly disarming the militias.
While the ONUB resolution strengthens the ability of the two UN forces in the region (MONUC and ONUB) to cooperate, that idea is also related to a trend of discussion in the Council that the Great Lakes could benefit significantly from a new kind of security partnership between the UN and the AU and the emerging proposal of some form of “regional ready response” capacity. In this regard it is noteworthy that the African Union (AU) has also signalled willingness to send troops to the DRC to help disarm militias.
Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland briefed the Council on the situation in northern Uganda, among other issues, on 19 December. Mr. Egeland indicated that the LRA constitutes a threat to regional peace and security and recommended that the Council should appoint a panel of experts to examine the activities of and the sources of support for the group.
Parallel to the developments in the Council, in the DRC the constitutional referendum took place on 18 December, as part of the transitional process. The transition will be concluded with elections in June 2006.
Finally, on 19 December 2005, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) delivered a ruling in a case of regional importance, DRC v. Uganda. In its decision, the Court found that Uganda, during its intervention in DRC, had violated the principle of the non-use of force in international relations and that its armed forces had committed serious violations of international humanitarian law. Also, it found that the DRC had violated international law by attacking the Ugandan embassy.
Council outcomes are expected to include:
a general resolution on the Great Lakes, which could cover the implementation at the regional level of resolution 1625 (2005) on conflict resolution and peacebuilding in Africa, and of resolution 1631 (2005) on cooperation with regional organisations; and
a decision on further harmonising (or regionalising) the mandates and effectiveness of UN peacekeepers in the region, possibly along lines of the approach adopted in resolution 1609 (2005) with respect to Côte d’Ivoire and other operations in West Africa.
The Council will also hear more about the regional implications of the situation in northern Uganda. In this context, Council members may follow up on Under Secretary-General Egeland’s briefing.
The perennial issue before the Council is to ensure that the transition process in the DRC is successfully completed and that stability in the Great Lakes region is reached. A related issue is the removal of the threats to regional stability posed by the existence of irregular armed groups, often of foreign origin.
The Council mission and the Tanzanian initiative have encouraged members to think more widely about opportunities for the Council to be more effective by acting in a more regional rather than purely country-specific mode.
The ambitious Council agenda on the Great Lakes in January is a very important development. But it will give rise to additional issues and political sensitivities.
For the DRC, its constitutional referendum will be over. It may welcome the opportunity to demonstrate in public before the Council that it is meeting benchmarks in the peace process.
Burundi may welcome the opportunity to showcase its progress, especially to encourage foreign investment. But the challenges posed by the DRC based rebel group Front national de libération (FNL) mean that it also has a strong interest in regional solutions to security issues.
Rwanda will be enthusiastic about anything that pressures its enemies amongst the armed groups in the DRC, but will be looking for opportunities to expand its influence in the region.
Both the DRC and Uganda will be contemplating how to respond to the ICJ ruling. The Great Lakes meeting in January has potential for both sides to demonstrate that that phase of regional history is past and that they are now committed to working out the implications of the ruling in a cooperative way. They will be conscious that there will be severe downsides for both if they seek to use the meeting to inflame the situation.
The regional approach will inevitably also bring into focus the security issues often raised by Uganda concerning cross-border threats. Uganda has in the past made several suggestions for military cooperation and assistance on Congolese soil.
Inevitably, the regional discussion will extend to the wider dimensions of the humanitarian situation in the north of the region, including the incursions from Sudan by the LRA into the DRC and Uganda. Uganda has argued, in a letter to the Council dated 13 December, that the security problem is essentially resolved and is now a purely internal matter. It criticised countries such as Canada for seeking the inclusion of the northern Uganda issue in the Council’s agenda. Canada, in a letter dated 16 December 2005, argues that the threat to regional peace and security remains real and that the humanitarian threat is grave.
It seems that this whole set of issues will benefit from an open airing. The regional approach proposed by Tanzania may offer all concerned a pragmatic and productive solution, provided the debate is well prepared and all concerned approach it with willingness to compromise and resolve these issues. In this regard the elaboration and application of the principles in resolution 1625 will be a helpful framework.
There is no division inside the Council on the need to approach the issues in the Great Lakes on a regional basis. There is recognition that this will help to ensure that the transitions in the DRC and Burundi are successfully concluded and to build international support for regional reconstruction and development.
Leadership in Great Lakes matters in the Council has traditionally been taken by France, in view of its commitments to francophone countries. More recently, Tanzania has also displayed willingness to take a key role in Great Lakes issues in the Council, particularly given its role in the Burundian peace process and its proximity to the troubled region.
In this context, action against foreign fighters has also been assisted by the concerted demands from Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the DRC. They have been pressing even more strongly that foreign fighters in Congolese territory be disarmed.
substantively addressing, in the context of resolutions 1625 and 1631, not only the regional dimensions of the south and central parts of the region, but the northern sector as well. This would mean focussing on the security, humanitarian and IDP issues across the Uganda/DRC border and also within northern Uganda;
extending the discussion of the LRA issue to include the Sudan dimension as well. This has the logic of following the approach of dealing with all the key linkages. However, this brings in issues associated with southern Sudan and a potential dimension for the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) as well. For both practical and political reasons this option would probably overstretch the possibilities for action in January, although as occurred in Under Secretary-General Egeland’s briefing, it is bound to be discussed. Action may be reserved for a later discussion; and
establishing a process to sustain the proactive regional approach on these issues over several months so that the Ministerial meeting momentum does not fade.
In the early 1990s, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi and the DRC all experienced political turmoil and instability. The conflicts in all four countries quickly developed inter-linkages through the cross-border movement of combatants and refugees, and a regional dimension emerged.
Mobutu Sese Seko’s regime in Zaire (now DRC) faced increasing opposition after decades of a brutal and authoritarian regime in 1993-94. At the same time, ethnic turmoil escalated in Burundi and Rwanda, pitting Tutsis against Hutus. Kampala was fighting against rebels opposed to President Yoweri Museveni, largely the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) who also used bases in eastern Zaire.
Rwanda and Burundi suffered cross-border raids carried out by Hutu extremists from Zaire and ethnic Tutsi Rwandans were attacked in North Kivu by Rwandan Hutu extremists. Laurent-Desire Kabila seized the opportunity to overthrow Mobutu largely with Rwandan and Ugandan support in 1997.
However, relations between Kabila and his two main supporters, Rwanda and Uganda, began to sour in 1998. The crisis led to military intervention from both countries, but Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia came to Kabila’s aid. Kabila also turned to Hutu forces in the Kivus to counter Rwanda. Rwanda and Uganda responded by sending troops and supporting the creation of rebel groups.
International pressure finally succeeded in bringing about the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement in July 1999 among all six countries. Subsequently, fractures in the Rwanda-Uganda alliance resulted in clashes in the city of Kisangani. The assassination of Laurent-Desire Kabila in 2001 brought to power his son, Joseph Kabila.
A peace agreement on the Burundian conflict was signed in Arusha in August 2000, establishing a three-year transitional period. In the following years, virtually all Hutu armed groups joined the process, apart from the FNL, and the Council established ONUB in 2004 to assist with disarmament and demobilisation, patrol the borders and monitor the ceasefire.
The 2002 Sun City Agreement established a power-sharing mechanism in the DRC, a unified government and elections. Subsequent agreements on troop withdrawals were signed with Uganda and Rwanda in mid to late-2002. The war formally ended with the signing of the Global and All-Inclusive Agreement in December 2002.
MONUC supports the Congolese government in the transition. It also supports the Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC) against irregular armed groups in the eastern provinces of the Kivus and in the Ituri region. It has also been involved in the voluntary disarmament and integration of former armed groups into the FARDC.
2002 also marked the emergence of a new crisis, the escalation of the longstanding conflict in the region of Ituri, in the Orientale province. The crisis once again exposed the regional dimensions of the conflict in the DRC with the involvement of Rwanda and Uganda. The conflict created such a humanitarian disaster that the Council authorised the deployment of an Interim Emergency Multinational Force (IEMF) in 2003. Militia leaders eventually signed the May 2004 Kinshasa Act of Engagement.
In 2003, the Council imposed an arms embargo on all armed groups operating in the Ituri region and in the Kivus, as well as against armed groups not party to the Agreement. In 2004, it established a Sanctions Committee and a Group of Experts. In 2005, the Council extended the embargo to any recipient in Congolese territory and adopted targeted travel and financial sanctions, now strengthened.
As identified by the ICJ and by the Council Group of Experts on DRC sanctions, there is an intimate connection between the illegal exploitation of resources, the presence of foreign fighters and the perpetuation of conflict in the Great Lakes region. The illegal exploitation of natural resources is channelled into funds for the purchase of arms and the maintenance of armed groups, which in turn guarantee that the exploitation continues. The process creates synergies between fighting and economic activity, which then protract the conflict. Against this background, the fact that DRC borders have remained porous, despite Security Council sanctions measures, is understandable.
Rwanda and Uganda have continued to have security concerns for almost a decade, directly linked to the presence of fighters in the DRC. The failure to disarm the FDLR and the LRA prompted renewed threats of intervention from Kigali in 2004 and from Kampala in 2005.
|Selected Security Council Resolutions|
|Reports of Council Missions to the Region|
|Selected Secretary-General’s Reports|
|Reports of the DRC Group of Experts|
|Reports of the DRC Panel of Experts on Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources|
|Security Council Debates|
|21 December 2005||The Council strengthened sanctions in the DRC and renewed ONUB’s mandate.|
|18 December 2005||Voting in the DRC constitutional referendum began.|
|1 November 2005||A list of individuals subject to targeted sanctions in the DRC was adopted.|
|September 2005||President Museveni of Uganda threatened to send troops into the DRC should MONUC and the FARDC fail to disarm the LRA.|
|August 2005||Pierre Nkurunziza was elected president of Burundi.|
|May 2005||The Council expanded the DRC arms embargo to include any recipient within the entire country’s territory, and imposed a travel ban and assets freeze.|
|February 2005||Referendum approved the Constitution of Burundi.|
|May 2004||ONUB was established.|
|March 2004||The Council established a DRC Sanctions Committee and a Group of Experts.|
|July 2003||The Council imposed an arms embargo on armed groups in the Kivus and Ituri or those not party to the Global and All-Inclusive Agreement.|
|May 2003||The Council authorised the deployment of a multinational force in Ituri.|
|April 2003||The final act of inter-Congolese political negotiation was signed. The interim constitution was adopted, establishing a transitional government until elections.|
|December 2002||The parties to the Inter-Congolese Dialogue signed a Global and All Inclusive Agreement.|
|September 2002||The DRC and Uganda signed the Luanda Agreement on troop withdrawals.|
|July 2002||The DRC and Rwanda signed the Pretoria Agreement on troop withdrawals.|
|April 2002||The Sun City Agreement was signed.|
|February 2001||Rwandan and Ugandan withdrawal began in the DRC.|
|January 2001||Joseph Kabila was sworn in as president.|
|August 2000||The Burundian Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement was signed; the transitional government was established in Burundi.|
|February 2000||Fighting continued in the DRC, largely for natural resources, pitting government against rebels and Rwandan against Ugandan forces. The Council added Chapter VII protective powers to MONUC’s mandate.|
|December 1999||The Council established MONUC.|
|July 1999||The DRC, Angola, Namibia, Rwanda, Uganda and Zimbabwe signed the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement.|
|August 1998||Insurgents backed by Rwanda and Uganda rose up against President Laurent-Desire Kabila. Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola sent troops to assist the government.|
|May 1997||Laurent-Desire Kabila, with support from Rwanda and Tutsi rebels, captured Kinshasa. He was sworn in as president. Zaire was renamed DRC.|
|1996||Zairian rebels asserted control over much of the eastern provinces.|
|1994-1996||Rwandan Hutu extremists carried out attacks against Rwanda and the civilian population of Zaire. A government of national unity was inaugurated in Rwanda. The Council partially lifted the arms embargo for the Rwandan government.|
|1994||Rwandan genocide took place. The aftermath displaced hundreds of thousands of Hutus into Zairian territory. The Council modified UNAMIR, authorised Opération Turquoise and imposed an arms embargo in Rwanda. Rwandan Tutsi forces achieved victory. The Council created the international tribunal for Rwanda.|
|1993||Ethnic turmoil escalated in Rwanda and Burundi. The Council established the UN Observer Mission Uganda-Rwanda (UNOMUR) and UNAMIR.|
|1986||Museveni took power in Uganda and installed a no-party system; the LRA began fighting.|
Other Relevant Facts
|MONUC: Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of Mission|
|William Lacy Swing (US)|
|MONUC: Force Commander|
|Babacar Gaye (Senegal)|
MONUC: Size and Composition of Mission
| Authorised maximum strength: 17,000 military personnel.
Current strength (31 October 2005): 16,221 total uniformed personnel, including 15,197 troops, 724 military observers, 300 police.
Main troop contributors: Pakistan, India, Uruguay, South Africa.
US$383.188 million for 1 July 2005 – 31 October 2005 (A/RES/59/285 B)
30 November 1999 to present
|ONUB: Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of Mission|
Carolyn McAskie (Canada)
|ONUB: Force Commander|
Derrick Mgwebi (South Africa)
|ONUB: Size and Composition of Mission|
Total authorised strength: 5,650 military personnel, including 200 military observers.
|ONUB: Cost and Duration|
$307.69 million (gross) between 1 July 2005 – 30 June 2006