On January 6, 2013 AfroAmerica Network first disclosed the political wranglings at the United Nations about the nomination of a UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes of Africa (see our article: UN Special Envoy in the Great Lakes: Will 2013 Bring Peace in Eastern DRC? .
The idea came to fruition on February 24, 2012 in Addis-Abeba, when 11 Heads of state or their representatives signed what is known as “ACCORD-CADRE POUR LA PAIX, LA SECURITE ET LA COOPERATION POUR LA REPUBLIQUE DEMOCRATIQUE DU CONGO ET LA REGION(*)” or The Peace, Security and Co-operation Framework for the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Region. The Framework aims to address two of the root causes of the conflict in the eastern DRC: the persistent interference from neighbouring countries and the weak and dysfunctional security, justice and governance institutions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Without mentioning them, the Framework refers to Rwanda and Uganda that have been accused of providing support to the M23 militia, Congolese rebels mostly composed of Rwandan government soldiers and which is accused of mass murders, rapes and recruiting child soldiers.
Unlike previous accords, the Framework has taken a long entertained but never reached step: the provision for the appointment of a UN special envoy and the establishment of a group consisting of the 11 signatory countries, the UN, the AU Commission, the ICGLR and SADC — to ensure adherence to the Framework’s commitments.
UN Special Envoy, a Long and Overdue Required Step
The idea of a UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa is not new. It was first proposed in Rome in February 2009 by a Rwandan opposition group, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) during the negotiations with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) mediated by Sant’Egidio Roman Catholic Community, SIK Norway and Church of Christ in Congo (ECC). The negotiations had led to the disarmament and regroupment of NDC combatants in Kasiki, North-Kivu, Eastern DRC. NDC is a coalition between the mostly Hutu armed opposition group Rally for Unity and Democracy (RUD-Urunana) and the mostly Tutsi armed opposition group Rally for the Rwandan People (RPR- Inkeragutabara). Both groups are based in Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.
At the time the idea was strongly opposed by the Rwandan government and overlooked by the United Nations. According to sources and observers, some high level officials of the United Nations Mission in the DRC, then known as MONUC, fought the idea, because they had not been invited into the Rome negotiations. At the same time, the Rwandan Government viewed the negotiations as threatening its influence in Eastern DRC and opted to attack the disarmed combatants and their dependents and hence putting an end to the process.
Yet over the last four years, perhaps because the idea was so good, or the RUD and RPR Rwandan rebels of NDC and their leaders were so persistent, or the peace in Eastern DRC has remained elusive, or all the above, the idea has made its way and became a reality on February 24, 2013, endorsed by 11 countries of the region, the United Nations Secretary General, African Union, SADC, ICGLR and ultimately, the United Nations Security Council. Even most of the major NGOs and Humanitarian organizations have wholeheartedly endorsed the idea put forward by the Rwandan rebels (See here)
UN Special Envoy: the ball is in the court of Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
The fact that the idea of the UN Special Envoy is from Rwandan armed opposition whose troops are based in the DRC and the DRC government, is a major tailwind for the success of whoever will be appointed. Neither the Rwandan rebels of NDC nor the DRC Government have interest in rejecting or creating obstacles to the idea they were first to promote. Hence, the eyes should now turn to the Rwandan Government and its leader, General Paul Kagame to find out how he plans to leverage this opportunity.
In a sense, by signing the Framework, the Rwandan leader has endorsed and owned the 2009 Rome Agreement between NDC and the DRC Government. Rwandan President Paul Kagame has also the right to ask the UN Envoy to start from where the 2009 Rome Agreement left off. Which may mean to require that the UN Envoy invite the Rwandan rebels and the DRC Government to sit with the Rwandan Government at a negotiation table. That would be a major step in bringing peace to the Great Lakes region of Africa in general, and in Eastern DRC in particular.
How the UN Special Envoy will operate will be decisive as much as who will be appointed.
As AfroAmerica Network pointed out in the January 6, 2013 article, the success of the UN Special Envoy depends on many factors and who will be appointed.
- Will the UN Special envoy be a person with enough clout to command respect and confidence in his leadership and abilities, by the key stakeholders involved?
- Is the UN Special Envoy going to engage all the actors, including the Rwandan Government and the Rwandan rebels based in the DRC?
- Is the UN Special Envoy going to have enough power and resources to be able to use both the carrot and the stick?
But equally important is the attitude, the involvement and the leadership of Rwandan President General Paul Kagame.
- Is the Rwandan President Paul Kagame going to take this opportunity to resolve once for all the thorny problem of the Rwandan rebels by talking to his armed opposition, like other leaders in the region have done or are doing?
These are a few questions that the UN Special Envoy will have to face and the concerned Congolese, Rwandese and their friends may be pondering.
Meanwhile, AfroAmerica Network’s question remains: UN Special Envoy in the Great Lakes: Will 2013 Bring Peace in Eastern DRC?
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