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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

NEWS ANALYSIS: Little Incentive for Congo Truce




JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- After days of optimistic pronouncements that a cease-fire was imminent in Congo, a weary South African delegate admitted Tuesday that "Nobody knows how long these talks will last.''


South Africa's new foreign minister, Nkosazana Zuma, who enthused at lunch that "there is a bright light at the end of the tunnel,'' later canceled her public schedule for Wednesday and looked as if she would be hanging out in Lusaka, Zambia's depressed and dusty capital, for a while.


In Cape Town, meanwhile, South African President Thabo Mbeki announced South Africa would participate in a peace-keeping mission once a cease-fire was established. The contingent, the size of which is yet to be determined, would have a "non-combative capacity.''


On Wednesday, delegates resumed talks after they broke down after disagreements on a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Congo, the integration of Congolese and rebel forces into a new army and how to restore civil administration in the vast country. The disagreements jeopardize a draft peace deal agreed to Sunday.


Independent analysts were not surprised at the breakdown. Many had been pessimistic from the beginning.


While the world has been willing to bomb Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic into submission, the pressure on the warring parties in Congo is fraternal, and relatively weak.


The poor nations that might contribute peacekeepers cannot offer the legions of trained men needed to police a country 200 times the size of Kosovo.


Besides, the warring sides have little incentive to quit. While each has failed at total victory f for the rebels, ousting President Laurent Kabila; for Kabila, driving them back out f each has nonetheless got the thing it most wanted.


The rebels, surrogates for the Tutsi-led governments of Rwanda and Uganda, have captured a huge buffer zone in which they are free to hunt and kill the Hutu militias that raid Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi. Kabila, despite losing a third of his empire, has nonetheless kept control of the diamond and cobalt mines that are reported to fill his offshore bank accounts in Mauritius.


The issues the factions disagree on are fundamental. They amount to whether to admit that the former Zaire is two countries with two governments, which now must make peace. The truth is that, for decades, Congo has really been three countries. A western one from the Atlantic coast to Kisangani, run by the national capital, Kinshasa, its goods moving in and out by barge on the Congo River. The eastern one, with Goma its chief city, sees its goods move overland through Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya. The southern one, with most of the mineral riches and Lubumbashi as its main city, sees goods move south by rail and road through Zambia.


For 30 years under the former dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko, central government control was lax; taxation failed; soldiers got their pay by looting.


Kabila is said to object to any political talks or integration of the army units that question his rule or that put rebels on an equal footing with him.


His finance minister, Mawapanga Mwana Nanga, said Tuesday that Kabila would sign a cease-fire only if it outlined a Ugandan and Rwandan withdrawal. Of any talks on future government, he said, "Everyone is free to come to Kinshasa and say what they want to say, but it's an internal matter.''


Since the rebel leaders suspect they could be arrested and shot if on arrival in Kinshasa and would see their fighting units overrun if Uganda and Rwanda withdraw, they seem unlikely to accept such conditions.


The United States, the United Nations and the European Union are attending the talks, but seem content to sit and watch, hoping for the best. A deal was supposed to be signed last Sunday. Now the talk is about "something by Saturday'' with crucial elements to be worked out later.