Consultation among members of the civil society on the situation in Eastern Zaire

from Synergies Africa
Published on 05 Feb 1997
Resolutions and Recommendations
Organized by Synergies Africa in Geneva
from 3 - 5 February 1997
with the support of the Republic of Ireland and the Swiss Confederation

I. Statement of objectives

II. Introductory remarks

III. General recommendations on the conference on peace, security and durable development in the Great Lakes region

I. Statement of objectives

1) Gather testimonies from leaders of civil society on the situation prevailing in eastern Zaire;

2) If possible, define lines of action that will lead to lasting solutions to the present crisis.

II. Introductory remarks

A. The quality of participation at the meeting was remarkable: members of the civil society from eastern Zaire and from other parts of the country attended; we note also the presence of a diplomatic adviser to the Prime Minister of Zaire as well as eminent personalities from the political scene and the NGOs in Rwanda (see attached list).

This level of participation reflected the sincerity of the will for dialogue despite the present circumstances.

B. The sometimes heated debates took place in an atmosphere of serenity, courtesy and frankness. They were also marked by the sense of African fraternity, despite the real political and ideological divergences.

C. The meeting was held under the chairmanship of Ambassador Alioune SENE, former minister from Senegal, and in the presence of Special Political Adviser to the Director General of the United Nations (Geneva), representatives of the Carter Center, the OAU, ICRC and HCR as well as several international NGOs based in Geneva.

III.Recommendations and Final Resolutions

A. The Regional Conference on Peace, Security and Durable Development

A.1 Points of consensus

A regional conference is a necessity at the present time; the NGOs must promote this political approach at all levels.

The political and practical aim of this conference should be regional integration in as many domains as possible (economy, security, etc...)

A.2 Other significant comments and contributions

It should be noted at once that some participants expressed doubts about the effectiveness of this type of meeting and suspect certain western countries of trying to make use of the conference to achieve unavowed ends

* Preparatory steps and aims of the regional conference

In preparation for this conference the first steps could be to define the conditions for a cease-fire acceptable to all parties, and to obtain the political agreement of the countries in the region and the firm commitment on the part of the major powers to support this process.

The aims of the conference would be to promote peaceful coexistence among the peoples and states in the region with a view to establishing equitable and lasting peace and guaranteeing security for all.

* The agenda of the regional conference

- Carry out an in-depth diagnosis of the conflicts undermining the region, identify the underlying causes and their ramifications.

- Give thought to a new concept of security, looking at it in terms of the different demands and dimensions (e.g. emphasize the concept of human security as opposed to a purely militaristic approach to security).

- Take up questions relating to the protection of and assistance to civilian populations, including the problem of the freedom of movement of humanitarian organizations seeking to help the victims.

The immediate and practical result of this conference should be the implementation of a regional non-aggression and peaceful cohabitation pact, (drawn up under the UN Permanent Consultative Committee on Security in Central Africa), along the lines of ANAD in west Africa.

* The Participants

Political participation should be at the highest possible level: heads of state and government, heads of international organizations (OAU, UN, etc), the protagonists in the fighting.

The participation of the traditional authorities could be envisaged and the NGOs in the region should be mobilized at once so that their contribution can be fed into the intergovernmental dialogue.

* Setting up the Regional Conference

In the view of several participants, the procedure for setting up the conference should be as follows:

- The recommendations made by this workshop should be referred to the local, regional and national level for further work. In other words, meetings of the NGOs in each country should be held in the coming days.

- Thereafter, a conference of the NGOs in the Great Lakes region should be organized to prepare the best possible conditions for the Regional Conference.

This regional NGO conference could tackle such questions as: good governance and democracy, the protection of individual rights, security and peace.

For the attention of the decision-makers of the international community, a number of participants pointed out that this Regional Conference must be carefully prepared and that it should be seen essentially as a dynamic and ongoing process and not a summit meeting that remains a dead letter. They therefore plan to organize preparatory missions by committees of technical and political experts in order to sharpen the themes that will be on the agenda. In the specific case of Zaire, the despatch of an international fact-finding commission to establish the reality or otherwise of the aggression, could help to bring points of view closer together and start a dynamic leading to dialogue.

One of the major decisions taken by the conference could be to set up a permanent structure for crisis and conflict monitoring and reflection.

The political and financial support of the international community will be essential for the success of this regional conference. However, the decisive factor in its success will be the involvement and commitment of all the vital forces of the countries in the region.

B. The contribution of civil society to this process of dialogue and peace

Every effort must be made to maintain and strengthen cooperation and consultation among the NGOs in the region.

For this, a common platform for reflection and the exchange of ideas is urgently needed, and Synergies Africa could play an important role here in facilitating the flow of information and meetings among the leaders of civil society.

* More than ever, the civil society should be the place where political leaders are democratically challenged; not developing an attitude of systematic opposition to state institutions and politicians, but working in synergy with all the partners.

* In a region where information is a major political issue, the civil society should refine its tools for gathering, analysing and disseminating reliable information to enlighten the political decision-makers and strengthen the processes and the dynamic for peace that are now under way.

* The NGOs must remain vigilant to all cases of violations of the rights of the individual, whoever is responsible and whatever justifications they offer.

However, it is no longer a question of doing more than denounce such violations: the emphasis now must be on information, training and education in human rights and fundamental freedoms to accompany the transition to democracy, a spirit of tolerance and a culture of peace.

* In order to fulfil all these obligations, the civil society needs to be strengthened; its leaders must be protected against arbitrary measures and the legal status of the associations must be safeguarded by the State. The NGOs should also receive greater material and financial support.

In this respect, the appointment of the Special Representative of the OAU and the UN, Ambassador Mohamed Sahnoun, has raised great expectations on the part of the NGOs , since his sensitivity to place of the NGOs in the process of dialogue and peace is well-known.