The Devastating Crisis in Eastern Congo: Testimony of John Prendergast, Co-Founder, Enough Project
Testimony of John Prendergast
Co-Founder, Enough Project
House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights
December 11, 2012
Thank you, Chairman Smith and Ranking Member Bass for the opportunity to testify at a crucial moment for the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The crisis in eastern Congo continues to deteriorate, threatening to spiral out of control into an all-out war involving several neighboring countries. Throughout the latest explosion and previous cycles of conflict, the root causes of war are not being and have not been addressed, leaving “peace processes” to focus on flimsy power-sharing arrangements that have undermined the sovereignty of the Congolese state and the professionalism and neutrality of its armed forces. This in turn has left the civil population of eastern Congo subjected to globally unparalleled violence, predation, and impoverishment. Another unrepresentative agreement between powerful interests with the biggest guns might ease open fighting momentarily, but it lays a deeper foundation for further devastation and state deconstruction. The United States should not be a party to such a short-term and destructive approach, and must alter its policy to help avert an outcome that simply sews the seeds for further war.
Drivers of Congolese War Unaddressed
The lack of a credible, effective, internationally mandated and leveraged peace process addressing the escalating war in Congo is becoming a major reason for that war’s continuation. The current negotiation between the government of the Congo and the M23 rebels is already making all of the same mistakes as its predecessor processes, and will likely result in the same kind of short-term deal that keeps the Congolese government in power, reduces international pressure on Rwanda and Uganda for backing the M23, and re-dividing the spoils of war. The root causes of structural violence will remain unaddressed, and any agreement will lack the involvement of political parties, representative civil society elements including women and religious leaders, and local armed groups representing the diverse voices and interests of eastern Congo.
This is the latest chapter of a long story involving competing mafia-like networks controlled by leaders in the capitals of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda, all of whom wrap themselves in national security concerns to mask economic and political interests. Sometimes these competing elites fight and sometimes they cooperate for control of lucrative land, livestock, mineral, and timber resources.
The opportunity that the current rebel withdrawal from Goma opens up should not be squandered by leaving the resolution of the conflict solely to these three governments and the armed rebellion that two of them support, ignoring the root causes and the real representatives of eastern Congo. The time has come, finally, for a real international peace effort, the kind that actually has a chance of ending the deadliest war globally since World War II.
The fundamental drivers of conflict are never on the table at the peace talks, and the basic recipe of conflict resolution – coming to agreement based on the parties’ underlying interests – has been missing. It is time to place these issues openly on the table and agree on a joint plan to deal with them in a transparent way that leaves room only for peaceful development, not war. Getting the parties to agree to discuss these normally taboo issues – control of the minerals trade, a political framework, etc. – will also require significant outside leverage and the right mediation process.
Two key pieces of the solution are missing.