DR Congo

DRC: IRIN Interview - Ernest Wamba dia Wamba (Part 2)

Leader of the Rassemblement congolais pour la démocratie - Mouvement de libération (RCD-ML), Ernest Wamba dia Wamba, was interviewed at his residence in Bunia, Ituri District for IRIN on 15 February. The second and final part of the interview below, touches on the difficult context in which humanitarian operations function in eastern DRC and the possible deployment of more UN peace monitors.
Q: Do you think UN peacekeepers are needed?

WAMBA: The Lusaka agreement is a significant step forward to peace. Six months or so after [the agreement] even though there are no observers, there have been only minor violations. It means people want peace. The Congolese people have been through 11 wars and are very tired.

UN observers are very important because they will consolidate this desire for peace. The few violations could be monitored, with the reporting of culprits. We do note, though, two different approaches by the UN in this matter - when in Europe and when in Africa. Kosovo gets 6,000 peacekeepers, yet Congo - in which the whole of eastern Europe could fit - gets 5,000 proposed. There is also a practical problem. When there is a small number of peacekeepers in Congo their protection cannot be guaranteed. They cannot be spread out, so then it is not very effective and it takes longer and is much more costly. If you had 25,000-30,000 peacekeepers, peace could be reached much sooner.

With this Lusaka Agreement we feel, yes, a national dialogue is crucial - but how do the Congolese people make their own agreement? Nothing seems to be said about the people in all these decisions. Peace is a common interest. We respect outsiders but we want the interests of the Congolese people.

Q: Are UN peacekeepers appropriate for the Ituri clashes?

WAMBA: No, not really. Observers arrive in terms of a classical type of war. This one is arrows and machetes and some guns.

What is really crucial is to have people who are sophisticated in conflict resolution. Soldiers put security in place, but then we need measures of confidence so that both sides start talking. We have some dialogue but we need help with the psychology involved. We don't have specialists. Our own ranks are trying with some success to get both sides to see there is no benefit in fighting - but with not much success.

UN observers are deterrents to make sure agreements are followed. Here, we have to establish an agreement, and have traditional rituals - like slaughtering a cow - to seal it.

Q: What vision do you have as a factional president? How can you make a difference?

WAMBA: I don't think of myself as a "faction". We have vision for what Congo should be like, and what consists of a democratic state. A state for all people of all origins. It is a state that has to have horizons of multiplicity and not have one determining religion or culture...The collapse of the state in Congo was like a cultural, spiritual and political earthquake. We need a census. We don't even know how many we are.

Congo is a great country and everyone can have something to do. This is a crisis of the political class in which everyone wants to be president. Multipartyism is only one element of democracy. Democracy should be the full notion of political pluralism - free press, trade unions, social organisations, cultural and professional associations. All these pressure the state to behave.

In this whole region the basis of conflict is that there is no agreed legitimacy, and minorities become scared of democracy - they even believe it means genocide. Minority is a political catagory not a demographic catagory. We should fight against a state which forces people to think in ethnic categories.

Q: Do you think you will be president?

WAMBA: The business of who will be president is a democratic process, and we contribute to the transition and the process. We want particular sorts of rigour - like an independent commission for elections. The trouble with elections on this continent is that it gets down to who can be clever enough to control the elections.

I personally don't think I want to be clever and control the election commission. There must be a structure that makes sure a transitional government is following a programme for fair, free and credible elections. In Africa elections are mostly not credible. Even when international observers say the elections were free and fair, there is a big doubt in people's minds.

We don't want elections like that.

Q: What hope does Congo have as a nation state when it is splintering into rebel factions?

WAMBA: We need help, it's true. We have faith - perhaps naively - in the international community.

Inside Congo there has never been a movement for partition, nor has there been a leader who advocated it. If you look at the secession issue of the 1960s it was instigated from the outside and was to do with the removal of Patrice Lumumba.

We don't think division of the country into four parts is going to lead to 'de facto' partition. We are fighting ... for unification, a common front to prepare for national dialogue, and an integrated national army. I am very optimistic the country will remain together.

Good leadership is needed - also from our neighbours and the outside world. Any idea for partition has come from the outside world. The quality of smaller states would be so poor. Countries around us do have mixed feelings about a strong Congo; but regional economic cooperation would be very beneficial to our neighbours and could also help solve problems in Burundi and Rwanda.

It is more positive to have one country with a new government, than break it down and experience lots of struggles.


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