Agreement Signed, But Framework Hollow

BMI View : The Addis Ababa ' f ramework a greement' signed on February 24 is more a statement of principles than a detailed peace plan, and we doubt it will meaningfully improve the security situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The agreement calls for structural reforms in the DRC to address the root causes of lasting conflict, and demands that neighbouring states refrain from funding armed groups in the country. Lacking a firm timeline and - most glaringly - a solution to the ongoing M23 rebellion, the agreement is unlikely to be more successful than the many attempted deals that preceded it.

African leaders gathered in Addis Ababa have unveiled their latest effort to forge a diplomatic solution to the ongoing violence in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Despite the new f ramework a greement's high-profile launch , BMI believes that the deal is little more than a statement of principles and will not significantly improve the situation in Central Africa's unstable giant.

The current crisis , which has displaced more than 800,000 people, started in April 2012, when soldiers in the DRC 's ramshackle army mutinied, capturing much of North Kivu province. The rebels - who call themselves the M23 - claim that DRC President Joseph Kabila breached the March 23, 2009 peace agreement which integrated them into the national army, and have called for political reform in the country. President Kabila alleges that M23 is funded by Rwanda, a charge Kigali denies but which BMI believes is credible .

Strength In Numbers?
Africa - Addis Ababa Framework Agreement Signatories

T he f ramework a greement seeks to deal with the two key causes of conflict in the DRC; the inability of Kinshasa to assert government authority over its vast territory and the continued support by neighbouring states of various Congolese rebel groups . The agreement calls for ' structural reform ' in the DRC, the reorganization of the country's poorly integrated army, and the continuation of long-sta lled decentralisation efforts. These are all admirable goals, which BMI believes could do much to improve the political situation in one of t he world's worst governed states .

Gesture Without Motion

The key problem, however, is that the agreement does not spell out the method by which this transformation of the DRC is to be achieved . As an oversight mechanism the states agree to hold periodic meetings of the eleven signatories (plus the UN, AU, and two regional bodies), but BMI doubts the effectiveness of this largely voluntary system , and worries that the '11+4' meeting format may deter any one actor from taking responsibility for pushing negotiations forward . We also note that, s ince regional states deny supporting rebel groups now, it is hard to take seriously their pledge not to do so in future.

Worse, the agreement's long- term goals come at the expense of any immediate solutions to the M23 rebellion that is still ongoing. There was no mention of the long discussed South African-led intervention force that Kinshasa wants to see deployed along its border with Rwanda but which BMI believes is unlikely in the short term. M23, which was not invited to the signing , has said the agreement 'doesn't concern' them and has called for the continuation of direct talks with the Kinshasa government, which have been stalled for weeks (see our online service, January 24, 'Little Progress Expected from Kampala Talks').

Can The Centre Hold?

Opposition MPs in Kinshasa point out that their country is hardly alone in having a dubious democratic record, claiming that regional states are blaming the victim rather than punishing Rwanda for launching a proxy war that has destabilised the region .

This anger adds to a growing sense that President Joseph Kabila is a weak leader who has given in to Rwanda by failing to stand up for the DRC's sovereignty in its mineral-rich east. While BMI expects fighting to remain localised in North Kivu, we believe that this agreement will weaken President Kabila's authority across the country and that protests in major cities are likely. While a lasting solution to the DRC's weak state institutions would dramatically improve political stability, a protracted (and externally-led) 'reform process' will only draw attention to weakness of the country's increasingly feeble government.

This article is tagged to:
Sector: Country Risk
Geography: Congo, Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, Uganda, South Africa, Congo, Congo

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