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Homepage > Publication Type > Open Letters > Resolving Africa's Two Most Deadly Conflicts

Resolving Africa's Two Most Deadly Conflicts

Brussels  |   24 Jun 2005

With African Union (AU) leaders and G8 leaders preparing to meet in separate summits, the International Crisis Group is urging them to take bold and immediate action to resolve Africa's two most deadly conflicts: in the Darfur region of Sudan and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In letters (full text below) to AU and G8 leaders on the eve of their respective summits in Sirt, Libya, and Gleneagles, Scotland, Crisis Group President Gareth Evans highlights the two situations and challenges leaders to do everything they can to protect the millions of people still desperately at risk.

"Both these deadly conflicts have been characterised by immense, almost unbelievable, human suffering", says Evans. "If not immediately and adequately addressed, the conflicts in Darfur and the Congo will continue to devastate the lives of countless Africans".

War-caused hunger, disease and violence in Darfur are still claiming the lives of as many as 10,000 children, women and men every month, with more than 200,000 – perhaps over 300,000 – dying over the last two years, and two million forced from their homes. The ongoing political and humanitarian crisis in the Congo is still resulting in some 30,000 deaths every month, with nearly four million dying over the last decade.

For Darfur, the letter urges AU and G8 leaders to take six steps to protect civilians. They must recognise that many more troops are needed; support the frontloading of the AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS); ensure strong immediate international support; accept the need to develop a NATO bridging force option should African forces and capabilities not prove immediately sufficient; agree on a stronger mandate for AMIS; and enforce the UN ban on offensive military flights.

For Congo, Crisis Group calls for strong and immediate action in support of the Congo's difficult transition in five areas: reinvigorating the Congolese political process; supporting security sector reform and disarmament; supporting resolution of the problem posed by the continued presence of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda in the east; reinforcing the UN Mission in the Congo with a stronger mandate and greater force levels; and strengthening the arms embargo.

"The two summits should be occasions for focusing, urgently and once and for all, on resolving these two catastrophic man-made crises that together continue to claim some 40,000 African lives every month", says Evans.


 

To find out more about the crisis, visit our Darfur advocacy page and our Conflict in the Congo page. These pages have details of Crisis Group's reports and opinion pieces on the conflicts, details of our advocacy efforts to date, information on what you can do to support Crisis Group's efforts, and links to other resources on the conflicts.


 

23 June 2005

[AU Commission Chairperson Alpha Oumar Konaré; AU Chairperson President Olusegun Obasanjo; Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin; French President Jacques Chirac; German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder; European Commission President José Manuel Barroso; Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi; Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi; Russian President Vladimir Putin; UK Prime Minister Tony Blair; and U.S. President George W. Bush]

As you gather for the African Union Summit and the G8 Summit focusing on Africa, I am writing to urge you and your colleagues to take bold and immediate action to resolve Africa's two most deadly conflicts: in the Darfur region of Sudan and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The summit presents a timely opportunity to agree on stronger and more effective intervention by the international community to stop the ongoing atrocities and deaths.

Both these deadly conflicts have been characterised by immense, almost unbelievable, human suffering. The ongoing political and humanitarian crisis in the DRC is still resulting in some 30,000 deaths every month, with nearly four million dying over the last decade. In Darfur, war-caused hunger, disease and violence are still claiming the lives of as many as 10,000 children, women and men every month, with more than 200,000 – perhaps over 300,000 – dying over the last two years, and 2 million forced from their homes. I ask you to take this AU [G8] Summit as the occasion for focusing, urgently and once and for all, on resolving these two catastrophic man-made crises that together continue to claim some 40,000 African lives every month.

Darfur

The international community is failing in its responsibility to protect the citizens of Darfur. Despite repeated pledges to stop the violence, the Sudanese government has utterly failed to do so. Political negotiations have stalled and, despite the presence of AU troops on the ground and the UN Security Council's important action in relation to accountability and sanctions, the civilian population of Darfur continues to suffer grievously. The missing ingredient is the most basic of all: physical civilian protection.

The notion that the atrocity crimes in Darfur are solely African problems requiring exclusively African solutions is misplaced and must be reconsidered. Although the AU mission in Sudan (AMIS) has made an impact in improving security in some areas, its ability to protect civilians and humanitarian operations remains hamstrung by limited capacity, insufficient resources and a mandate diluted by political constraints. Given Sudan's abdication of its own responsibility to protect its citizens, it falls on the broader international community to accept that responsibility to do so. If African institutions are unable to provide adequate protection for civilians in an acceptable timeframe, NATO – as the only multinational institution with the full range of capabilities required - must be prepared, with AU and UN support, to put resources on the ground to protect civilians now, and help AMIS build, over time, the capacity to fulfil that role itself.

A bold new approach is needed to make civilian protection the primary objective of international efforts. Decisive steps must be taken to build on AU efforts to deploy a multinational military force with sufficient size, operational capacity and mandate. Crisis Group urges AU and G8 leaders to take the following six steps to protect the civilians in Darfur:

  • Recognise that Many More Troops are Needed: 12,000-15,000 personnel are required on the ground now to protect villages against further attack or destruction, protect IDPs against forced repatriation and intimidation, protect women from systematic rape outside IDP camps, provide security for humanitarian operations, and neutralise the government-supported militias who continue to prey on civilians.
  • Support the Frontloading of the AU Deployment: The AU should approve and commence an immediate increase in AMIS's force to more than 12,000. Its current plan to deploy 7,731 personnel (including 1,560 civilian police) by September, possibly expanded to 12,300 in 2006, is far too slow. Civilian police are especially urgently needed
  • Ensure Strong Immediate International Support: To meet this rapid deployment timeframe, the UN, EU and NATO must offer further support to the AU – building on that already variously provided by the US, Canada, France and other EU countries – with respect to force preparation, deployment, sustainment, intelligence, command and control (C2), communications and tactical (day and night) mobility, including the deployment by AU partners of assets and personnel to meet capability gaps where needed.
  • Accept the Need to Develop a Bridging Force Option: Should African forces and capabilities not prove sufficient within this timeframe, NATO should be prepared to deploy a multinational "bridging force" to bring the total force level in Darfur immediately up to 12,000 – 15,000 troops and maintain it at that level while the AU prepares and deploys its forces.
  • Agree on a Stronger Mandate: The AU must strengthen AMIS's mandate to both enable and encourage it to undertake all necessary measures, including offensive action, against any attacks or threats against civilian populations and humanitarian operations. Such action must be taken against both those militias operating with the government and those opposed to it. Without a stronger mandate, the ability of AMIS - or any other international force - to provide protection will remain extremely limited, regardless of the force size.
  • Enforce the Ban on Offensive Military Flights: The AU, EU and NATO should agree on more effective enforcement measures to ensure the prohibition of offensive military flights as required by UN Security Council Resolution 1591.

The bold actions proposed here are no more than the minimum necessary to stabilise a very difficult and dangerous current situation. Further decisions will be required to ensure the safe return of over two million refugees and internally displaced persons - or if the situation deteriorates further. No single player will be able to resolve the crisis in Darfur. Only a partnership of diverse military, civilian and humanitarian actors can provide an adequate degree of protection for the civilian population and lay the foundation for a secure environment and a stable peace.


Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

The international community has the same responsibility to protect the citizens of the DRC. It must take strong and urgent action to support the transition, establish a national army, and secure lasting peace. The fundamental problem in the DRC is the failure of the Transitional Government to implement a meaningful reform program, as key members of the government jockey for political advantage and corresponding access to the country's vast economic resources. In addition, the continued presence of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), estimated to number 8,000-10,000, threatens civilians and could trigger further regional conflict and violence in the eastern DRC.

The prevalent zero-sum-game mentality among members of the Transitional Government has stalled progress, including the postponement of the national elections originally scheduled to take place in June 2005. Events last year in the Kivus, the recent violence in Ituri, ongoing tensions in Kinshasa and, increasingly, in Katanga and Kasai, are stark warnings that the conflict in the DRC can quickly spiral into another large-scale war. Crisis Group urges summit participants to take strong and immediate action in support of the DRC's difficult transition in these five areas:

  • Reinvigorate the Congolese Political Process: The international community, acting through the International Committee to Accompany the Transition (CIAT), must do more to energise dialogue with the government on key legislation, the conduct of elections and security sector reform, including setting clear political benchmarks for concrete measures to advance the Congolese peace process. Furthermore, it must seek to persuade all major actors that it is in their interest to hold free and fair democratic elections as soon as practically feasible and urge calm as some Congolese leaders seek to exploit now-unavoidable election delays for narrow political purposes. Donors should more closely condition aid to both the Transitional Government and Rwanda on concrete measures to advance the peace process.
  • Support Security Sector Reform and disarmament: The transition will not succeed without the establishment of a viable, functioning national army and a police force with a presence throughout the entire country. CIAT, in cooperation with the UN Mission in the Congo (MONUC), must develop an effective, comprehensive plan for the establishment of a unified national army. An International Military Advisory and Training Team (IMATT) under the auspices of CIAT, should take the lead in drafting and supporting the plan. The Transitional Government must be pressed to provide the required resources to the Congolese armed forces. Donors, especially EU members, must increase substantially their financial contribution towards security sector reform – currently a paltry 20 million U.S. dollars – to promote effective implementation of the plan and, simultaneously, combat corruption through proper accountability mechanisms.
  • Support Resolution of the FDLR Problem: Immediate progress on efforts to disarm the FDLR is necessary to protect civilians, and to prevent a potential Rwandan military intervention and the devastating impact of that, in turn, on the Congolese transition. On 31 March 2005, representatives of the FDLR announced it was willing to cease military action against Rwanda, return home, and work with the instruments of international justice. The outlines of a peaceful solution are clear: the international community must press the Transitional Government, Rwanda and the FDLR to make this happen. If peaceful avenues for disarming the FDLR are exhausted, the only option will be forcible disarmament by the new Congolese army, with active and robust support from a more proactive MONUC, with the AU also giving substance to its declared intention to assist.
  • Strengthen MONUC: To be effective, MONUC requires not only a stronger mandate, but greater force levels, an expanded geographical scope, and enhanced technical capabilities. The UN Security Council must be pressed to make clear that MONUC must go beyond its current "deterrence though presence" approach and be explicitly authorized to respond robustly to any attack or threat of attack, including if necessary, in a pre-emptive manner. To fulfil this mission, MONUC also requires greater support from countries with advanced military capacities, including better surveillance and intelligence to reduce illegal arms flows and illicit economic activities, a strategic reserve force to provide emergency reinforcement if the mission is threatened, additional tactical mobility assets, and a core of trained staff officers to improve command and control. The Security Council should increase MONUC's current force strength of 16,700 and its geographic scope by authorising additional personnel for Katanga and Kasai Oriental. These forces could include gendarmerie and must be in place several months before next year's elections.
  • Strengthen the Arms Embargo: Arms smuggling continues to undermine the peace process. MONUC must work to strengthen the arms embargo already imposed by conducting unannounced inspections of vehicles, aircraft and military facilities, and establishing monitoring stations on key roads and border crossings. The UN Security Council must make the reporting from the Group of Experts on violations of the arms embargo a much higher priority, taking action against those found guilty, including such targeted measures as a visa ban and assets freeze.

If not immediately and adequately addressed, the conflicts in Darfur and the DRC will continue to devastate the lives of countless Africans. Please take up the challenge and do everything you can at this summit to protect those millions still desperately at risk.

Sincerely,

GARETH EVANS

President

 
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