Thursday, October 26, 2006

DRC Election Update: Presidential Poll To Be Held On Sunday, October 29

Shooting in north and capital ahead of Congo poll

Thursday, 26 October, 2006
By David Lewis

KINSHASA (Reuters) - Four people died on Thursday when supporters of Congo's rival presidential candidates fought a gun battle in the north of the country ahead of Sunday's vote.

Gunfire also erupted in the capital Kinshasa during an apparent prison breakout attempt.

An army colonel told U.N. radio four people, including three policemen, died in the northern town of Gbadolite, home of the late dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. Residents and U.N. officials reported heavy firing.

Police and residents in Gbadolite said soldiers loyal to presidential candidate Jean-Pierre Bemba had surrounded Francois Joseph Mobutu Nzanga, a key ally of President Joseph Kabila, in a building.

Mobutu Nzanga, son of Mobutu Sese Seko, had been campaigning for Kabila in the town.

"Bemba's soldiers have got hold of him and they are not letting him go anywhere," a U.N. official said. "There has been gunfire all over the place. The problem is very serious."

Bemba and Kabila face off on Sunday in the first democratic poll in 40 years, which is meant to be the final step in a peace process to end Democratic Republic of Congo's 1998-2003 war, which killed more than 4 million people.

But clashes between supporters of the two men have raised fears the vote will trigger bloodshed and dash hopes of a new beginning for Congo, a mineral-rich country blighted for decades by violence, corruption and kleptocracy.


Gbadolite is in northern Equateur province where Bemba has strong support. Mobutu Nzanga's agreement to back Kabila was deeply unpopular with many of his followers in Gbadolite.

A U.N. official said Mobutu Nzanga was surrounded when he went to a pro-Bemba radio station to try to stop it broadcasting propaganda against him.

A local human rights organisation said at least one prisoner was killed by troops during shooting at the Kinshasa prison. U.N. officials said up to five prisoners could have died.

The incidents on Thursday stoked fears among U.N. officials and Western diplomats that Sunday's poll would do little to relieve the suffering of ordinary Congolese, 1,200 of whom are estimated to die every day in the humanitarian catastrophe triggered by the vast country's war.

Bemba indicated on Thursday he would cancel a rally of his supporters planned for Kinshasa on Friday because of fears that Kabila supporters would "sabotage it".

"I'm very concerned about all these reports of guns and ammunition in the city," he told a news conference.

He complained about the cancellation of a televised debate with Kabila planned for Thursday and said it was a violation of electoral law. He vowed to defend himself if attacked.

Supporters of the two rivals fought for three days in central Kinshasa in August, killing at least 30 people. They have boosted their forces and armaments since then.

A European Union force backing up the world's largest U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo has brought several hundred reinforcements to Kinshasa and many expatriates have sent their families home because of fears of bloodshed.

United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Kinshasa)

October 25, 2006
Posted to the web October 25, 2006
By Nina Yacoubian

At the weekly press conference on Wednesday 25 October, 2006, MONUC asked the presidential candidates to maintain the unity of the country before and after the polls of next Sunday 29 October 2006 and to pledge not to repeat the first round behavior of unilaterally self proclaiming as a winner.

"The whole world is looking at you; the Congolese are asking to be heard. They want to vote in peace and calm. Don't deceive their expectations," MONUC told the two presidential candidates and asked them to appeal their supporters to stay calm and disciplined.

MONUC condemned the isolated incidents that occurred in some of the provinces such as in Lubumbashi, Mbandaka, Lodja, Kinshasa and Kindu. "The violent acts have never been the solution to solve problems. Violence is the opposite of democracy, the political system chosen by the Congolese," said Jean Tobie Okala, MONUC deputy spokesperson.

Amid a tense atmosphere ahead of the forthcoming elections, MONUC recalled the political actors to respect the code of conduct they had voluntarily signed.

The press conference was held before the High Authority of the Media (HAM) announces that the televised debate due to take place on Thursday 26 October 2006, between the two presidential candidates was cancelled. After five hours of negotiations with the delegations of President J. Kabila and Vice-president JP. Bemba, it was impossible for the HAM to find a common ground, declared Modeste Mutinga, president of the HAM during a press conference.

In the field of Human Rights, the director of the Human Rights Division (DDH) at MONUC, Fernando Casta-on, expressed concerns for the escape of more than twenty inmates from Mbandaka prison, including the five condemned in April 2006 for crimes against humanity for massive rape in the Songo Mboyo process.

The DDH also asked the Congolese government to urgently take the necessary measures in order to reinforce the security in prisons and detention centers where there are risks of escape.

As for the polling day, the DDH encourages the Congolese people to participate in that day with a spirit of calm, respect and tolerance. "This is a decisive moment in the history of the country and DDH deeply wishes that the Congolese would be able to exercise their right to vote freely," added Fernando Casta-on.

A Strategy for Peace And Reconciliation in the DRC?

Fahamu (Oxford)
October 26, 2006
Posted to the web October 26, 2006
By Dieu-Donné Wedi Djamba

Reverend Bongani Finca argues that when states are drowning in conflict and there is a general breakdown of the rule of law, gross abuse of human rights occurs with a resultant loss of human life and other acts of injustice. [1]

Tina Rosenberg, the Pulitzer Prize winner, writes that "A country's decisions about how to deal with its past should depend on many things: the type of dictatorship or war endured, the type of crimes committed, the level of societal complicity, the national political culture and history, the conditions necessary for dictatorship to occur, the abruptness of the transition, and the new democratic government power and resources". [2]

It is against this background that the political situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) ought to be assessed. The DRC has just come out of a civil war that is reported to have killed more than three million people. That war left thousands of people displaced, and despicable atrocities were committed. However, a peace agreement was signed, in 2002, between the government, the rebels groups (MLC and RCD), the militia group (Mai Mai), civil society and the political opposition.

At the end of this transitional period, which started in July 2003 with the formula 1+4 (one President with four vice-presidents), Congolese people are focused on the second round of the presidential election which will see the incumbent Joseph Kabila opposing his challenger Jean-Pierre Bemba, and the provincial and local elections which will take place on the 29 October.

But while all the attention is focused on the elections, one of the decisions taken on 2 October 2006 by the transitional government in the name of the peace process threatens to undermine future justice in term of accountability for those responsible for grave human rights violations.

Indeed, in the name of peace, two Ituri ex-militia leaders, Peter Karim of Front des nationalistes et intégrationnistes (FNI) and Mathieu Ngudjolo of Mouvement des révolutionnaires congolais (MRC), both accused of killing, rape, and using child soldiers, have been appointed as colonels in the national army.

But the Peter Karim and Mathieu Ngudjolo cases are not the only ones in this regard. Several similar cases are to be counted. Indeed, last year four ex-militia leaders were appointed generals in the national army, as IRIN noticed. [3]

Are all these appointments helpful for peace and reconciliation in the DRC? Through this paper, I will analyze the consequences of these cases in terms of accountability for those responsible for grave human rights violations.

Accountability for those responsible of grave human rights violations.

The ICTJ recommended that the government stop appointing the ex-commander militia 'suspected of participation in massacres and other war crimes' to the national army and instead to prosecute them. [4]

To add his voice to this issue, Juan Mendez, the President of the International Center For Transitional Justice (ICTJ) and United Nations (UN) Secretary General special counsel, declared that if the DRC wants a lasting peace, the country should not appoint individuals into the army when there is irrefutable evidence that those individuals have committed grave atrocities. [5]

But in the case of the last appointment, Adolph Onusumba, the Congolese Defense Minister argues that the objective of these nominations is the pursuit of peace. [6] The term of peace has a broad meaning, but in the context of a post-conflict situation such as the DRC, the term peace raises a couple of questions:

What is peace? Does that mean peace for the woman who was raped? Does it mean peace for the man who saw his wife and/or daughter being raped? Where is peace for those who witnessed their families being slaughtered and their houses burnt to the ground?

For the victims of war in the DRC, 'peace' means positive peace, one in which justice is addressed, human rights are respected and people live without any fear (as opposed to a negative peace such as a ceasefire, which is negative because it stops the war but does not address other issues) [7]. And this 'peace' has to be based on the concept of justice. There is no peace without justice. But this justice has to be taken into the transitional justice perspective .

Describing transitional justice, Alex Boraine, chairperson of the ICTJ and former deputy chairperson of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) said:
"...transitional justice offers a deeper, richer and broader vision of justice which seeks to confront perpetrators, address the needs of victims and assists in the start of a process of reconciliation and transformation." [8]

Responding to the appointment of the two militia leaders, Joel Bisubu, deputy director of Justice-Plus, a Bunia-based human rights group, said that people who kill and massacre Congolese should not be rewarded with high positions. [9]

The Defense Minister argued that the recent appointment of the two militia leaders was made by the government as a strategy to pacify the troubled northern-east district of Ituri. [10]

If all these appointments are a strategy for the government to lure all these militia out of the bush, then it is welcomed. However, that does not mean that those who committed atrocities during the war should not be held accountable. In this regard, the Defense Minister has publicly stated that the government is determined to work with the International Criminal Court to help bring war criminals to book. [11]

If the objective, however, is to protect war criminals from facing the law, then this strategy has to be condemned. It will send the wrong message to the victims of the war. It will further undermine any reconciliation between victims and their perpetrators, for the victims will feel betrayed by the government.

Joseph Yav Katshung argues that accountability for human rights violations is an important instrument in breaking the cycle of violence and impunity and is an indispensable component of the process of healing the wounds. [12]

Reconciliation can begin when the need for reparation is acknowledged and acted upon. The response by former victims to these initiatives can increase the potential for greater stability and increase the chances for sustainable peace. [13]


The DRC is making herself ready for 29 October and the second round of presidential elections and local elections.

But this challenge is not the only one she faces. Among those challenges are the restoration of peace and reconciliation after the war, which is reported to have killed more than three million people and increased HIV/AIDS infections.

The aim of this paper was to attempt to explore the challenge facing the DRC of how a post-conflict government reconciles an ethnically divided country. Further, I have attempted to show that appointing militia leaders who committed atrocities during the civil war to high governmental offices will not bring unity, peace and reconciliation in the DRC.

• Dieu-Donné WEDI DJAMBA is a lawyer (Advocate)at the Lubumbashi Bar association/DRC; Assistant lecturer in the College of Law in Lubumbashi/DRC; Human Rights Activist; Writer; Currently fellow in Fellowship Programme in Transitional Justice co-organized by the International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) and the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) in collaboration with the University of Cape Town(UCT) in Cape Town, South Africa.


[1] Bongani Finca, 'They treat the wounds of my people cheaply', in transitional justice and human Security, (2006) pp56

[2] Tina Rosenberg 'After word: Confronting the Painful Past', in :Martin Meredith, coming to Terms: South Africa's Search for Truth,1999,pp330

[3] IRIN:News:'Great Lakes: Le CITJ exige de poursuites judiciaries contre les ex-chefs de milice en RDC',pp2

,Accessed 10-1-2006

[4] IRIN,op.cit.pp1

[5] IRIN,op cit pp 2

[6] IRIN,DRC:Two miltia leaders appointed army colonels,pp1 ,Accessed,2006-10-13

[7] Professor Jannie Malan used the terms "negative and positive peace" during the course session for the fellowship in Transitional Justice(2006) in Cape town/South Africa.

[8] Alex Boraine, 'Definiting Transitional Justice:Tolerance in the search for justice and peace', in transitional justice and human Security,(20006),pp22

[9] IRIN,op.cit pp1

[10] IRIN, ibid. pp1

[11] IRIN,op.cit.pp1

[12] Joseph Yav Katshung,'DRC:Healing the wounds of war through reparations', in Pambazuka, pp1 ,Accessed,2006-08-26

[13] Alex Boraine,op.cit.pp30-31.

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