UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, was forced to eat humble pie when his secretly drafted DR Congo “peace pact” was shot down at the just concluded 20th African Union Summit.
Officials who attended the Summit that ended on Sunday, January 27, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, said the plan failed because it was felt it marginalised some countries and didn’t contain anything new.
Eight heads of states from the Great Lakes region and the SADC last Monday postponed the signing of the roadmap over what was described as procedural issues.
First, the “Peace, Security and Co-operation Framework for the DRC and the region,” as the document is titled, limits the definition of region to only seven countries, excluding the DRC, that Mr Ban had identified as worthy signatories to the “agreement.”
These included: Angola, Burundi, the Republic of Congo, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and the DR Congo. The UN had earlier discussed its proposals with these countries on account of their proximity to and role in the DRC conflict.
The Southern Africa economic bloc, SADC and the Great Lakes Region peace and security bloc, ICGLR, comprise a total of 22 countries. Mr Ban hadn’t even considered half this number.
Secondly, the principles of engagement at each of the three identified levels — the government of the DRC; the region; and the international community — are replete with provisions that are identical to those in the peace and security pacts of both regional blocs.
For instance, Mr Ban expects Kinshasa, “to continue, and deepen security reform, particularly with respect to the Army and Police; to consolidate state authority, particularly in eastern DRC, including to prevent armed groups from destabilising neighbouring countries; to make progress with regards to decentralisation.”
Curiously, GLR leaders agreed to the very same things in their third, fourth and fifth meetings.
Sources who attended the failed negotiations in Addis Ababa said the purpose of Mr Ban’s “peace pact” was to rejuvenate Monusco, its highly funded peacekeeping mission in the world.
“Monusco was humiliated by [M23] rebels and is now disrespected in the region but the UN is keen to keep it since it cannot afford to be seen to have failed. So they are looking for all means to repair its image,” a source told The EastAfrican.
Mr Ban insists in his “pact” that, “In the DRC, Monusco shall be part of the solution, continuing to work closely with the DRC government.”
Another thing that disappointed regional leaders is Mr Ki-moon’s silence about their proposed Neutral International Force.
Although both parties have inched closer to agreeing on the potentially 4,000-strong force, the Secretary General didn’t say a word about it in his “peace pact” leaving the leaders feeling somewhat ambivalent to sail with the UN.
There has been a running disagreement over the NIF especially because, again, it was felt that it would further dampen the image and relevance of Monusco.
The EastAfrican understands it is this fear that has informed the UN’s insistence that any approval of such a force is dependent on it operating under its banner.
Rwanda has shown a rather unusual haste to sign on to the pact. It is a move that is more likely being driven by a weakening economy and Kigali’s need to demonstrate to its development partners that it is fully committed to resolving the crisis in eastern DRC so they can open their aid taps.
Five countries froze their aid last year following allegations that Rwanda was behind the M23 rebels.
“Anything that will bring peace to eastern DRC, Rwanda will be part of it without hesitation,” a statement from the Office of the Government Spokesperson reads in part. “It will not even take a month before it (the framework) is signed,” it adds.
On January 31, while appearing before three joint committees of Germany’s Parliament, Rwanda’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Louise Mushikiwabo said, “A secure and stable DRC is vital for Rwanda’s own economic prospects. If we can play a role in helping build a lasting peace in the eastern DRC, Rwanda will do so.”
Additional reporting by Emmanuel Rutayisire and Edmund Kagire