Across the Great Lakes region, efforts are underway to lay the foundations for peaceful, stable and ultimately prosperous development. The challenges are enormous. Economies are in tatters, human suffering remains widespread, and poor or weak governance continues to undermine the process of development. In this regional context, and even right across central and southern Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is pivotal.
As a result, substantial financial and human resources are currently being dedicated to the democratic transition process which is currently taking place in the DRC. In 2004, DRC ranked first in the list of recipients for EU Member States and EC aid, with disbursement totalling $1.1bn. This represented 62 percent of all overseas development assistance (ODA) received by DRC this year. It is hoped that the multi-party elections taking place in 2006, the first to be held in the country in 40 years, will lead to the legitimisation of the state and the pacification of the country. Yet, it is clear that, even, assuming the results of the elections are accepted, this alone will neither put a rapid end to chronic instability in the region nor lead to genuine democracy in the short to medium term.
Produced as part of the EU-funded Conflict Prevention Partnership, this paper analyses the context in which the European Union uses its external relations instruments to address security issues, promote legitimate and effective governance, and support economic recovery and regional integration, in the DRC. Consultations in the region and in the EU, as well as meetings held in Kinshasa in September 2006 with local officials, civil society and international diplomats have been used to develop recommendations and suggest possible avenues under each theme.
From immediate mediation to future long-term engagement
As preparations for the last round of elections gather pace, an immediate priority for the international community will be to help the country to strengthen its own conflict resolution and consensus building mechanisms, some of which may not have been taken sufficiently into account by the new consitution.
DRC embraces all the characteristics of a fragile state. These characteristics, however, are only partially addressed in the EU Strategy for Africa. In the longer term, all EU activities in DRC should take account of the following:
- security, governance, justice and development issues are closely inter-linked and cannot be treated in isolation from one another;
- promoting good and effective governance will require a break from past behaviour, not only from the government but also from the donor community itself;
- the weakness of the social contract between the government and its citizens makes it essential for donors, and the EU in particular, to strike a careful balance in their engagement with state actors (the executive, parliament, judiciary and other institutions with a role under the new constitution) and non-state actors (notably civil society groups and the media);
- job creation – or the creation of sustainable and decent income opportunities for all – not only contributes directly to poverty reduction, but is also a key development tool for peacebuilding.
Ultimately, the EU goal in DRC should be to help Congolese to find a peaceful path to prosperity.
The international community must continue to play the part of peacekeeper in DRC at all costs. To assist the United Nations operation (MONUC) which is concentrated in the east of the country, the mandate of the EU EUFOR troops, focused on Kinshasa and the west, will notably need to be expanded, at least until a new government is securely in place. Over the longer term, the EU plans to uphold its support for security sector reforms and will be increasing efforts to reinforce the operational capacity of the army and the police force during the transition period. The European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) mission, EUSEC, has also made good progress in implementing administrative reforms to separate payment mechanisms from the chain of command. It seems, however, that the power-sharing arrangements of the transition period made the army integration process not only inherently difficult but also precarious, as politicians remained reluctant to lose control over their private armies.
Sustainable plans for reforming the Congolese security sector should therefore be established with a long-term view. Because of the highly sensitive nature of the problems they raise regarding the distribution and allocation of power, reforms in the security sector are highly political by nature. International (and EU) experience and policy-making is leading to a greater emphasis being placed on civilian oversight, democratic accountability and deeper interaction with communities in order to drive and sustain security sector reform. Good governance in the security sector will also depend on a deep-seated change in behaviour and ethics. In order to accompany this process, donors will need to have a good understanding of the rival loyalties and interests that divide the different combat corps, police and other security sector institutions, within and between them. As regards the army, they will also need to work closely with the military command on establishing standards and a clearly defined national security policy. The international community should also help civilian institutions to exercise democratic control and oversight of the security system. Donors’ engagement in SSR, however, will largely depend on their ability to establish a co-operative relationship with the newly elected government. The European Commission, and the two ESDP missions, EUSEC and EUPOL, who are in the process of finalising their common position on SSR in DRC, may need to adjust their engagement accordindgly. As already established in the police sector, a framework for tighter co-ordination with EU and other non-EU partners will also be needed in order to avoid the risk that initiatives in the security sector are carried out piecemeal and do not mutually reinforce each other.
With regards to rebel armed groups, the international community has concomitantly supported opportunities for mediation, stronger joint military actions by the army and MONUC, and the process of Disarmament, Demobilisation, Reinsertion, and Reintegration (DDRR). Unless genuine regional co-operation takes place, progress in dealing with the issue of rebel foreign armed troops and ex-combatants in eastern Congo will remain slow. Proposals by the Conference of the Great Lakes Region for a regional Stability Pact are over-ambitious at this stage, and support will be needed to devise more practical solutions to this issue. These might include awareness-raising campaign to encourage the voluntary return of foreign militias, and a closer framework for mediation and dialogue, such as that set up between Burundi, DRC, Rwanda and Uganda under the Tripartite Plus Joint Commission. The EU and its Member States should also strengthen their commitment to enforce the UN Security Council’s arms embargo on DRC.
Disarming domestic militias should be helped by the fact that it falls within the realm of the national reconciliation process, where those that surrender weapons are given the opportunity to join the army or go through a reintegration process. However, disarmament is only one step of a very complex process of DDRR. As the recent International Alert report The EU and DDR: Supporting Security and Development demonstrated, the goal of this process is to help excombatants move away from the roles and positions that defined them during the conflict to identifying themselves (and being identified) as members of families and communities with corresponding responsibilities and opportunities. The time-bound Multi-country Demobilisation and Reintegration Program (MDRP), which the EU and member states support, can help to bring short-term security. But this should be combined with pledges from donors to put the creation of equitable decent and sustainable income opportunities at the centre of their post-conflict rehabilitation programmes. Much could be achieved after the elections, if the newly elected government genuinely commits to the reintegration of all ex-combatants as part of a nationwide reconciliation process, in which host communities will be involved and are active in promoting better governance, and in particular determining how to ensure that there is no impunity for serious violations of human rights.
Supporting legitimate and effective governance
Poor governance has been identified as a main cause of poverty in DRC. But poor governance is also a main cause of conflict. Clearly established, inclusive, and transparent regulatory and legislative frameworks and their effective enforcement are needed to address some of the main causes of insecurity in the Great Lakes region. This will require continued support for legal and judicial reforms but this will not be enough, however. In a country where the culture of predation is deeply ingrained, all state and non-state actors have a role to play in moving away from past behaviour. To help, the international community must also change the way it operates. As the EU harmonises its approach on governance as part of its Consensus on Development, priorities must be given to:
- Contributing to a regular, balanced, and truthful dialogue between state institutions and nonstate actors linking the capital with the provinces;
- Building the capacity of the country’s systems of checks and balances, both formal and informal;
- Promoting greater transparency and accountability in the way the international community, both donors and private sector, operates in the country.
The EU has recently announced an incentive envelope, worth €2.7bn, under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF). While based on the provision of incentives and the construction of dialogue, the governance profile which will form the basis of the discussion will be drawn up by EU staff. Instead, the EU should use the opportunity of its governance initiative to contribute to a much-needed nationwide debate on the issue. There is interest and capacity within civil society to participate in such a debate and this should be built upon.
With regards to capacity-building, support should go towards strengthening both formal and informal systems of checks and balances. Support for the executive, the legislature and the judiciary alone will not form the foundation of a democracy as their actions will be limited by their own lack of accountability. The EU should therefore make full use of the 15 percent EDF allocation earmarked for capacity-building for non-state actors, as well as the new thematic instruments, including the Human Rights and Democracy for the EU, directly to support activities for grassroot NGOs through local calls for proposals. Support for free and professional media, independent government watchdogs, and umbrella civil society networking organisations linking east and west, will be important to give the Congolese population the tools it needs to challenge, and build bridges with, its government. The Commission has recently issued a call for international tender to support a €4.5m capacitybuilding programme for civil society.
The EU’s support for schemes to support a transparent and efficent management of DRC’s mineral and non-mineral resources, such as Kimberley but also FLEGT, will also need significant resources earmarked for capacity-building. Greater policy coherence is also needed. EU companies with activities in the region should be encouraged to adhere to strict codes of social and environmental conduct, while a proper debate should be launched on the implications that bank secrecy and tax havens, many located in the EU, may have on illicit activities, and with them, global security.
With regards to its own external assistance programmes, the European Commission must urgently abide by its commitments to be more inclusive and transparent in the way it works, as the next generation of Country Strategy Papers (CSP) under the 10th EDF is being prepared. It could notably encourage its programmes to be openly debated in parliament after completion; this would increase domestic ownership over the path to development.
Supporting lasting reconstruction and development
There is a strong recognition among donors that a quick peace dividend is needed to help countries emerge successfully from a cycle of conflict and violence. Yet, it is not so much the level, but more the form and allocation, of its development assistance that will determine the contribution that the EU can make to development and peace in DRC in the next few years. Programmes that focus on institution-building and infrastructure; mainstream governance at local, provincial, and national levels; and use a participatory approach through all stages of their cycles should be prioritised. In addition, the donor community must work with the Congolese authorities to fully account for some of the country’s own special needs. A post-conflict and hence still fragile country should put peacebuilding at the centre of its poverty reduction strategy.
Non-state actors in DRC have out of necessity replaced the Congolese state in the provision of many public services. Support for post-conflict reconstruction will therefore require the EU and other donors engaged in the east to accompany a transformation process under which local NGOs redefine their role, while the functions of the state, including at local levels, are being rebuilt.
With an abundance of natural resources, DRC is potentially one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Therefore, what the country needs is not necessarily more aid, but the capacity, and will, to turn its own economic resources into a source of equitable income opportunities for the population as a whole. This will require support for effective, transparent and accountable cashflow management systems at micro-, meso- and macro-levels. As well as supporting an improvement in the management of the country’s natural resources and public finances, an immediate donor priority after the elections should be to engage with the government on the issue of public sector reform, beginning with a full civil servant census to determine total numbers and grades. The professionalisation of civil servants, and with it, the review of their salaries, are an important step towards improving administrative governance and slowly building a civil service culture, which values merit, quality, service, and accountability.
The EU must also work with the DRC government to put employment at the centre of its poverty-reduction strategy. Post-war rehabilitation programmes offer a unique and timely opportunity for providing equitable job opportunities in the short term, through the promotion of labour-intensive public works activities, for example, in transport, energy and water. Despite the temptation to deliver aid as quickly as possible, careful planning is needed to avoid situations in which contracting foreign companies are called in, with heavy machinery. There are plenty of success stories, starting with Rwanda, that show that using more local, labour-intensive technology can work. In the case of DRC, a clear distinction between activities that are unlicensed but create jobs – such as artisanal mining on former publicly-owned sites and activities, whether lawful or unlawful, that only contribute to the enrichment of the political and financial elite. This distinction must inform efforts to formalise the economy and within it, support grassroot economic activities.
Promoting regional integration
The European Commission supports the revival of the Economic Community of the Great Lakes (CEPGL), which is made up of DRC, Rwanda and Burundi. In addition, regional indicative programmes and the EU’s Trust Fund under its Partnership for Africa on Infrastructure could finance significant regional infrastructure projects. In the case of DRC, the EU will need to carefully balance resource allocation between promoting regional projects and supporting national reconstruction.
Regional integration is a long-term endeavour, which will need to be based on a multi-track approach – involving civil society, businesses, governments, and institutions – to succeed. Yet, the ongoing Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations between the EU and Central Africa have not been inclusive and transparent. Although they are arguably the most immediately affected, civil society actors and private sector associations have hardly been involved in the process. The EPA will require the eight Central African countries, including DRC, to reciprocate the duty-free access from which they currently benefit on EU markets. By letting EU products enter their markets duty-free, countries will have to forfeit significant custom receipts. The EPA could also lock these countries further into their current commodity-based production patterns, despite the inclusion of a safeguard clause for sensitive products. Given the lack of political will, the noncomplementary nature of their economies, and the proliferation of non-tariff barriers (including poor infrastructure and corruption), intra-regional trade in Central Africa, which the EPA promotes, is also unlikely to increase in the near future. As it currently stands, the EPA between the EU and Central Africa therefore seems to provide a risky trade-off between definite short-term costs and uncertain long-term benefits. Given the EU’s commitment to peace and development in Africa, a more cautious approach towards EPAs is needed. This notably calls for a greater coordination and coherence between the EU’s trade and development agendas.