U.S. Department of State, Susan E. Rice, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, Statement before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Subcommittee on African Affairs, "Central African Conflict and Its Implications for Africa and for the Future of U.S. Policy Goals and Strategies," Washington, DC, Tuesday, June 8, 1999


Central African Conflict and Its Implications for Africa and for the Future of
U.S. Policy Goals and Strategies


Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  It is a pleasure to testify before this Subcommittee
this afternoon.  Let me congratulate you, Senator, for your new role as Chairman
of this Subcommittee, and welcome new member Senator Brownback.  I also am
pleased to see Senator Feingold returning as ranking member of the Subcommittee.
I look forward to working together to meet the many challenges and opportunities
facing the United States in its partnership with Africa.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is home to roughly 50 million people and
borders nine other countries.  It is an integral member of the Southern African
Development Community (SADC).  With its vast mineral, agricultural and water
resources, the country has the potential to serve as an economic powerhouse--to
improve the lives not only of its own citizens but of many of its neighbors.
Its political course and economic prospects will directly influence the
stability of much of the rest of Africa.  The opportunity costs of Congo
becoming a failed or fragmented state are huge.  The direct costs in terms of
lives and destruction, I presume, would be self-evident.

The Conflict in the Congo

The current conflict in the Congo is the widest interstate war in Africa in
modern history, and potentially one of the most dangerous conflicts in the world
today.  It is unique in its complexity and in the multiplicity of actors.
There have been at least eight foreign countries directly involved in the
fighting in Congo.  There is also a plethora of nonstate actors engaged in the
conflict, including UNITA, the ex-FAR/Interahamwe, numerous Sudanese-backed
Ugandan rebel organizations, and others.  The Congo crisis is bleeding over into
other regional conflicts.  The result is a swath of interlocking wars involving
Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Angola, extending from the Horn to the
Atlantic.  It puts at risk the futures not only of the people of the Congo, but
the peoples of all nine countries on its periphery.  It is no exaggeration to
suggest that if the conflict persists, much of Southern, Eastern, and Central
Africa could be adversely affected.  It has set back economic development and
retarded efforts to strengthen regional cooperation.

The ultimate path out, outlined further in this presentation, lies in achieving
a comprehensive settlement. That is the end goal which guides President Chiluba
and our accompanying efforts. Over the past 10 months, we have not shied away
from that goal, but we recognize the complexity and difficulty of achieving
quick progress.  Therefore, we have focused our thinking as well on realistic
intermediate targets of opportunity that can create new facts on the ground.
We've pushed for the beginning of an internal Congolese dialogue, without
serious preconditions. We have suggested to Congo and its neighbors that think
in earnest how they might reach regional compacts that put in place a new
security architecture to address the vacuum in eastern Congo. When broken down
into its component parts, this conflict can become less hopeless and more
soluble.

The Congo crisis is the result of the intersection of two developments: (1) the
political and institutional vacuum that was the legacy of 30 years of Mobutu's
corrupt and tyrannical rule; and (2) the use of Congo by various insurgent
groups to destabilize neighboring states.

A number of the countries surrounding the Congo have been plagued by
insurgencies and armed conflict.  Of these, none has been more intractable and
more destabilizing than the bloody conflicts between Tutsi and Hutu in Burundi
and in Rwanda.   In 1972, an estimated 150,000 Burundian Hutus were the victims
of genocide; then, in 1994, at least 800,000 Rwandans (mostly Tutsi) were
slaughtered in a genocide organized by the Hutu government then in power.  It is
difficult to overstate the continuing traumatic impact of that event for Rwanda
and for the region.  Then, in 1996, violent inter-ethnic conflict came directly
to Congolese soil, in the form of the expulsion of Congolese Tutsis in the
Masisi region.  This event was the backdrop to the Banyamulenge-led and
externally supported rebellion that led to Mobutu's ouster.

Today, there are two broad coalitions facing each other in the Congo conflict
that erupted last August:  President Kabila's government and his principal
allies of Zimbabwe, Chad, Angola, and Namibia on the one hand, and the
rebel/Uganda/Rwanda coalition on the other.  Each side has internal divisions of
its own, based on their quite different interests and perspectives.   On the
Congolese side, Chad and Angola have effectively withdrawn from active
participation in the conflict.  On the opposing side, schisms between Rwanda and
Uganda as well as among the rebels have led to the emergence of several
competing factions.

After months of diplomatic and military stagnation, several recent developments
suggest there has been a shift in thinking within the region--in favor of
political and diplomatic action, versus overwhelming reliance on armed force.
On April 18 in Sirte, Libya, Congo, Uganda, and Chad signed an agreement calling
for a cessation of hostilities, the deployment of an African peacekeeping force,
and the withdrawal of Rwandan and Ugandan troops.  Chad subsequently began
withdrawing its troops, and Uganda has since generally avoided fighting.
Perhaps most importantly, on May 28, Rwanda declared a unilateral cessation of
hostilities, a move which triggered a flurry of diplomatic activity and could
help re-energize regional peace efforts.  The United States subsequently pressed
other parties to the conflict to welcome the Rwandan announcement and
reciprocate by refraining from further offensive operations as well as to
redouble their efforts to reach an agreement on a cease-fire and the withdrawal
of foreign troops.   A SADC summit is scheduled for late June in Lusaka to try
yet again to reach a cease-fire agreement.  Still, reports of Congolese bombing
of Uvira and Bukavu, as well as unconfirmed reports that rebels shot down
Zimbabwean aircraft May 29 or 30, and unconfirmed allegations of Rwandan
shelling of allied positions since the cease-fire announcement, leave the true
situation on the ground murky.

While the warring parties may be more inclined to negotiate now than at any time
since the war began, there are still numerous obstacles to a comprehensive and
sustainable peace.   Among them is the fact that the main rebel group--the
Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD)--recently split over the question of whether
to negotiate or seek a military victory.  RCD hard-liners have associated
themselves with neither the Sirte agreement nor the Rwandan declaration,
although their ability to conduct major military operations without external
support is uncertain.

Implications

The costs of the continuation of this conflict are potentially huge.  It
threatens to roll back recent economic and political gains across much of
Africa.  It constitutes a massive drain on resources urgently needed for
development.  Continued instability is scaring away foreign investment and could
spark secondary economic and/or political crises from Zimbabwe to Uganda.
Ethnic violence has been a perennial feature of recent conflicts in Central
Africa, and this most recent Congo crisis is no exception.  Thousands of
innocent civilians have been killed in Congo.  The Congo Government has actively
armed and trained 10,000-15,000 Interahamwe militia, many of whom participated
in the 1994 genocide.

Historically, Congo has been at the heart of successive scrambles for Africa.
Today, those with economic and political designs on the Congo come not from
Europe but from within the African continent itself.   A political vacuum in the
heart of Africa is a perfect setting not only for various state and nonstate
actors to replenish themselves and rebuild strength, but an attractive venue for
other groups with aims that directly threaten U.S. interests.   Growing Libyan
involvement in DROC may only be the forerunner of much more.   Sudan's
involvement is yet another example of that government's attempt to destabilize
its neighbors by using the cover of its support for the Congo to provide
additional aid to insurgent groups in Uganda.  The Congo war also contributes
both to the intensity and possibly the duration of the Angolan civil war--UNITA
has found new allies and is gaining from divisions among states within the
region.  The conflict also has the potential to adversely affect Burundi's peace
process.  Finally, rearmed and retrained ex-FAR and Interahamwe are a
tremendously destabilizing factor for the entire Great Lakes region.   The
threat of renewed genocide, therefore, remains real.

U.S. and International Response

Efforts to end the war began almost immediately after the conflict began in
August.  There have been dozens of meetings of regional leaders in various
cities under different auspices.   However, seldom did all necessary players
participate.  The rebels were excluded from all but one meeting.  SADC has
become the accepted vehicle for ending the conflict, with Zambian President
Chiluba assuming the leading role.   Mozambican President Chissano and Tanzanian
President Mkapa are assisting President Chiluba, and the United Nations has
recently appointed a special envoy, former Senegalese Foreign Minister Niasse,
to determine how the UN might support regional efforts to broker a peace
settlement.

>From the start of the Congo crisis, the U.S. has pursued an active diplomatic
strategy in support of our objectives.  Beginning last August, we have provided
full support for the regional initiative taken by SADC and the OAU.   Last fall,
I traveled to seven of the nations involved in the conflict.  Shortly
thereafter, Rwanda acknowledged its presence in the Congo--which eliminated one
of the major obstacles to the peace process.  Under Secretary of State Tom
Pickering met with several leaders of countries involved in the conflict last
September during the UN General Assembly, and visited Harare in February to
underscore the important role Zimbabwe must play to end the conflict.

During the U.S.-Africa Ministerial in March, I and others met with dozens of
senior government officials from Angola, Zambia, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, the Congo,
Uganda, and Chad to press specific proposals for achieving a negotiated
settlement.   Secretary Albright has personally and repeatedly underscored U.S.
concerns in conversations and correspondence with President Kabila, President
Museveni, United Nations Secretary General Annan, OAU Secretary General Salim
Salim, and other African leaders.   And, the President's Special Envoy for the
Great Lakes Region, Howard Wolpe, has spent almost 2 weeks of every month since
last summer shuttling between capitals to try to advance a cease-fire agreement
that is acceptable to all sides.   Most recently, 10 days ago in Abuja, on the
margins of the inauguration of the new civilian government in Nigeria, the U.S.
delegation met with the presidents of Congo, Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique, and
Zimbabwe to urge progress in the wake of the Rwandan cease-fire declaration.

U.S. Interests and Objectives

Throughout, U.S. policy objectives in the Congo have been consistent and clear.
We seek peace, prosperity, democracy, and respect for fundamental human rights.
We have affirmed our support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of
the Congo.  We have repeatedly condemned any violation of this fundamental
principle of both the United Nations Charter and the Organization of African
Unity.

We have worked to counter those who would perpetuate genocide in the region.  We
have encouraged the establishment of an inclusive political transition that
would end the cycle of violence and impunity; build respect for the rule of law
and human rights; and create the conditions for lasting development and
reconstruction.  As a consequence, we have been committed to a policy of
engagement in support of the Congolese people who suffered so much under Mobutu
Sese Seko's tyranny.

Our immediate objectives include:

--A peaceful, negotiated end of the war;

--Preservation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Democratic
Republic of the Congo;

--The resolution of border security issues affecting the Congo and its
neighboring states;

--Curbing ethnic strife and preventing the resurgence of genocide in the region;

--The institutionalization of democratic processes, the rule of law, and respect
for fundamental human rights in the Congo, and indeed, across the region; and

--The economic reconstruction and development of the country.

While a comprehensive settlement comprising these elements is our ultimate
objective, our immediate challenge is to set--and achieve--realistic
intermediate targets that change the facts on the ground.  Rwanda's
acknowledgement of its presence in Congo, and its subsequent cessation of
hostilities announcement, are two examples of such targets that have been met.
We--along with our African partners and other friends of Congo in the
international community--must work together to identify and bring about other
steps to move the belligerents toward a comprehensive solution.   We cannot lose
sight of the continued need for a meaningful constructive role by the United
Nations.  In the medium to long term, it will be dangerous for Africa and for
the world at large if the UN becomes marginalized from the management of crises.
For this reason, we have been encouraged by the UN Secretary General's
appointment of Special Envoy Niasse, and have encouraged a very active
engagement by the UN SYG.

In the longer term, our objectives are equally clear.  We seek to strengthen the
process of internal reconciliation and democratization within all of the states
of the region, so as to reduce the tensions and conflicts that fuel insurgent
movements.  In short, we seek stable, economically self-reliant, and democratic
nations with which we can work to address our mutual economic and security
interests on the continent.   A stable and democratic Congo can contribute
powerfully to regional stability.  Its economic promise is even greater, with
enormous benefits for U.S. economic interests as well as for the African
continent in general.

However, Congo's potential can only be realized in the context of a negotiated
cease-fire and comprehensive political settlement that takes account both of the
legitimate concerns of Congo's neighbors and the internal political conditions
that helped precipitate the crisis.   For a resolution to be durable, any
solution must also address the issue of ex-FAR, Interahamwe, UNITA, and other
nonstate actors.

We are encouraging the states in the region to implement a security compact to
contain and halt the nonstate immediately following a cease-fire.  The
formidable nature of the challenge these nonstate actors pose will make the
erection of the required security architecture a difficult undertaking.  We
stand ready to support the region in its efforts to develop such an agreement.

Next Steps

To summarize, any sustainable resolution of the DROC conflict will require
successful implementation of these distinct, but related, processes:

--A cease-fire among the external parties, the Congo Government, and the rebels.

--An open and inclusive internal political process that will credibly engage the
government, rebels, the unarmed political opposition, and civil society.  This
process must lead to a transition to a democratic state respecting fundamental
citizenship rights of all Congolese.

--The organization of a security compact among regional states to address the
problem of the ex-Far/Interahamwe, UNITA, and other nonstate actors.

--In addition, a settlement may require the insertion of an international
peacekeeping presence to monitor the cease-fire, eventual withdrawal of foreign
troops, and the exchange of prisoners, as well as lend confidence to the
Congolese during the transition.

Conclusion

Let me conclude by underscoring our recognition of the fact that Africans
themselves will plot their own destiny--their own paths toward peace and
stability.  Neither the United States nor any external actor can wave a magic
wand and resolve this conflict for the people of the Congo or for the region.
The people and leaders in the region must do so for themselves.  For our part,
we will continue to do all we can to help.

Mr. Chairman, all the African countries and the leaders of the Congo who have
contributed to the current crisis stand at a perilous crossroads.  They
themselves must determine whether to continue on the present violent path to the
detriment of their people or step away from military action and work in concert
to find a viable diplomatic solution.

We will continue to lend strong U.S. support to ongoing diplomatic initiatives
to bring all sides to a peaceful settlement.  These efforts are the only viable
way to resolve the current crisis in Central Africa.  I look forward to working
with members of this Subcommittee, as always, to do our utmost to help the
countries and parties in the region to address the challenges before the
Democratic Republic of the Congo and, more broadly, before Central and Southern
Africa.

Thank you.


Return to Vinnie's Home Page

Return to Africa Page

Return to Rwanda Page