Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

Women and Peace-Building in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

Women and Peace-Building in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Mobuto's fall from power in 1997 ended a repressive dictatorship of 30 years in the Congo. However, 'The War of Partition and Plunder' followed, and lasted from 1998 .to 2003. Despite the signing of a Peace Agreement in 2003, the implementation of a new constitution in February 2006, and subsequent multi-party presidential and legislative elections that took place in the same year, fighting in the eastern part of the Congo has escalated since 2007. The devastating effects of the war and the resulting humanitarian crisis resulted in both the international community as well as the Congolese engaging in peace-building efforts in the country. This article explores the nature of the involvement of Congolese women in peace-building. Peace-building, or Post Conflict Reconstruction and Development as it is termed by the African Union, is a multi-dimensional approach, which, according to the African Union's Post Conflict Reconstruction and Development strategy, encompasses six indicative elements. These serve as the framework for analysis.

1. INTRODUCTION

The struggle for democracy in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been long and protracted, and has been characterised by popular resistance to exploitation and repression by both the country's rulers and their external allies and business partners. Former President Mobuto's fall from power in 1997 saw the end of a repressive dictatorship of more than 30 years. With Rwandan and Ugandan backing, Laurent Kabila took Kinshasa by force in May 1997 after a seven-month war. However, until August 1998 Kabila opted for personal rule and dictatorship and was perceived as an occupying force and not having the Congolese people's interests at heart. (1) The war for the DRC's natural sources ('The War of Partition and Plunder', as Ntjalala calls it) followed in August 1998 (to 2003) when Rwandan and Ugandan troops invaded the country after Kabila removed Rwandan military officers from the Congolese army and sent comrades-in-arms back to Rwanda in July. (2) In this war more than three million Congolese died of war-related causes such as malnutrition, lack of health care and dangerous living conditions in areas where refuge had been sought in the bush. (3)

The devastating effects of the war and the resulting humanitarian crisis prompted the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to urge the belligerents to negotiate a settlement. Many peace deals were signed, of which the Lusaka Agreement of July 1999 was the most prominent. This was both a ceasefire agreement and a roadmap for political transition in the Congo. (4) It called for an inter-Congolese political negotiations process that would include all parties and that would result in, among other things, the establishment of political institutions through free and fair elections. These negotiations, which became known as the Inter-Congolese Dialogue (ICD), spanned nearly three years (after unsuccessful attempts in Gaborone, Addis Ababa and Libreville). (5) Negotiations finally reconvened in April 2002 at Sun City (South Africa) and a Peace Agreement was signed in Pretoria on 17 December 2002 and adopted at Sun City on 1 April 2003. The Sun City Accords (as they became publicly known) established a transition based on power-sharing arrangements among the belligerents contained in an interim constitution adopted on 6 March 2003. By this time the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was not only regarded as a failed state, but, as Le Marchand observes, it was the epitome of the failed state. (6) The transitional phase ended with the implementation of a new constitution on 18 February 2006 and presidential and legislative elections that took place in July and November 2006.

Although successful elections were held and a new government was elected, fighting in the east of the DRC resumed and escalated in 2007, by which time the estimated deaths (since 1998) were put at 5. …

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