Painting by Cheri Samba

Lokuta eyaka na ascenseur, kasi vérité eyei na escalier mpe ekomi. Lies come up in the elevator; the truth takes the stairs but gets here eventually. - Koffi Olomide

Ésthetique eboma vélo. Aesthetics will kill a bicycle. - Felix Wazekwa

Friday, February 15, 2013

The UN framework agreement––A serious peace process?

The recent escalation of violence in the eastern Congo demanded new thinking––after all, this is the last in a long series of such surges in violence since the end of the UN-led peace process in 2006. While there have been many mini-peace processes since then, they have been characterized by backdoor deals, opacity, and and lack of follow-up.

The main response from the broader diplomatic and donor community has been the Framework Agreement, an effort led by the United Nations out of New York. The secretary-general launched the preparatory process through a trip by his Chief of Staff Susana Malcorra to the region in November, after which a two page paper was put together by the political affairs and peacekeeping staff in New York. Over the following months several drafts were exchanged with heads of state in the region, in particular Presidents Kagame and Kabila. The agreement was supposed to be signed at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa in January, but a diplomatic fracas between the United Nations and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) over the dispatch of a new intervention force threw a spanner in the works.

That squabble appears to have been overcome now––the SADC countries have apparently agreed to integrate a peacekeeping force of 2,500–3,000 into the UN mission, but with a souped-up mandate focused on the area of worst violence in the Kivus.

As for the Framework Agreement, it is a very vague document, still around two pages long, that consists of the three broad parts:

  • preventing regional countries from interfering in each other's affairs
  • encouraging the reform of weak Congolese institutions
  • fostering greater donor coordination and engagement
The agreement is supposed to be signed by eleven countries in the region and overseen by a UN Special Envoy, hence the "11+1" title. The agreement still needs a lot of fleshing out, and the critical pieces are the twin oversight mechanisms highlighted in the final section, which will be responsible for making sure the desired reforms actually become reality. 

The first of these mechanisms is for the region––how will it make sure neighboring countries cease meddling the Congo and the Congolese government shies away from backing the FDLR? Will it beef up the Joint Verification Teams used by the ICGLR or will it go further to demand proactive action by the DRC, Uganda, and Rwanda? How will donors, who are already beginning to disburse their funds (the Germans have unblocked their aid to Rwanda, others may soon follow), tie their aid to this process?

The other critical implement is a national oversight mechanism for institutional reforms in the Congo. There is a realization that the decrepit army and police, weak local administration, and dysfunctional justice sector have aided in entrenching the conflict in the Kivus. The donor-backed plan to revamp these institutions––the Congolese part is STAREC, the donor component ISSSS––is being revisited after three years and few results. While this revision will push for much-needed accountability and involvement of local communities, it will also require greater buy-in and coordination from the government and donors in Kinshasa. 

At the moment, that is where the problem lies––the original framework text spoke of an oversight mechanism chaired by President Kabila but including all major donors and regional partners. In the new version of the document, these foreign partners merely support an oversight mechanism staffed and chaired by the government. While the language is still vague, this implies that the government would be overseeing itself, an arrangement that doesn't exactly promise accountability and transparency.

The agreement is due to be signed by the end of the month. At the moment, the Algerian diplomat Said Djinnit––currently the UN Special Envoy to West Africa––is the person most often mentioned as a potential UN Special Envoy, but donor attention has wavered substantially since November with Syria, North Korea, and Mali competing for attention. 

The Framework Agreement is promising. But a lot still needs to happen to make it a reality, and to overcome entrenched interests and inertia in both reforming the Congolese state and bringing an end to foreign interference in the Kivus. 


Dave Tshim said...

Dear JS,

Thanks for this posting. That the Framework Agreement is promising sounds too optimistic insofar as bringing this conflict close to an end is concerned. From my informal interaction with folks at Munyonyo Speke Resort Hotel in Kampala, few--if any--are truly after lasting peace, to say the least. So long as the number of conspirors against peace surpasses that of peace searchers, any conflict--especially this very one in eastern DRC--would be far from ending...The bottle seems to be half-empty!

Unknown said...

For once Rwanda nor Uganda are not to blame for the break down of the signing of the talks. The UN has failed despite the man power availed to them and a monsoon of a budget the biggest in the world, yet those that lack foresight think this knock off from ICGLR will work if SADC takes over the process and they were the first to capitulate. Now we have to please SADC, ICGLR, UN etc before people can hear the silence of the guns.

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