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From the October 2002 issue of World Press Review (VOL. 49, No. 10)

Democratic Republic of Congo

Peace Agreement

Dave Clemens, World Press Review contributing editor

Paul Kagame
Rwandan President Paul Kagame  (Photo: AFP).
In the 40-plus years since its independence from Belgium, the country now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo (D.R.C.) has known little hope and less peace. So it is understandable that the peace agreement between D.R.C. President Joseph Kabila and Rwandan President Paul Kagame signed on July 30 has left the African press cautious about an end to Congo’s latest and most comprehensive conflict.

The peace deal “gives hope to an end of Africa’s biggest war, but implementation of the agreement faces profound obstacles,” wrote the Mail & Guardian (liberal, Johannesburg)on Aug. 2. “Kagame and Kabila will need to display tremendous courage... if they are to save their people from the further punishment of senseless killings,” editorialized the Daily News (pro-opposition, Harare, Aug. 2).

And while the pro-governmental press in Kinshasa predictably hailed the accord—which calls for the withdrawal of 20,000-40,000 Rwandan troops from Congo on the condition that Congo arrests anti-Kigali Interahamwe guerrillas—independent Congolese newspapers were skeptical.

“A hell paved with good intentions,” Numerica called the agreement (independent, Kinshasa, July 31); for Le Phare (opposition, Kinshasa), it was “a treacherous agreement...that inevitably led to giving the Rwandan president an ideal pretext to remain in our country indefinitely” (Aug. 2).

Like many African newspapers, Le Phare stressed the immense difficulty of disarming the “fierce warriors and veritable killing machines” of the Interahamwe, whether by Congo, Rwanda, or the forces that under the accord are supposed to help: from South Africa and the United Nations.

The road to peace in Congo must eventually lead to the departure of other foreign troops—notably Zimbabwean supporters of the Kabila government and Ugandan soldiers sent originally to support the rebellion. As New Vision pointed out (government-owned, Kampala, Aug. 7), “Congo’s political and military equation...remains tricky until numerous rebel groups and factions, with ever-shifting allegiances and brutal tendencies, are sorted out.”

The Congo-Rwanda accord wasn’t a complete flop with the African press, notably with newspapers close to governments. Le Soleil commented (pro-government, Dakar, July 30) that “the mere fact that Kabila and Kagame could meet and talk peace is in itself a major breakthrough.” The Herald (government-owned, Aug. 3) said the peace deal should end “the brutal war, in which more than 2 million people have been killed,” and it quoted Zimbabwe’s defense minister as saying (Aug. 7) that “fighting has ended and it is only logical that our troops should now come home.”

Though troops from Angola and Namibia were sent to support the Kinshasa government, Zimbabwe has provided its main foreign support. The Herald said about 3,000 Zimbabwean soldiers remained in Congo, down from around 8,000 at the peak of the country’s involvement.

Meantime, President Kabila said he would seek to end the conflict with Uganda and Burundi by means of similar peace accords.

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