Global Policy Forum

Congo: Four Priorities for Sustainable Peace in Ituri

International Crisis Group
May 13, 2008

The risk of renewed violence in Ituri is limited today by the presence of the UN Mission in the Congo (MONUC), the dismantling of the majority of armed groups and the local population's war weariness after years of suffering and destruction. To ensure lasting stabilisation, however, it is essential to tackle simultaneously the conflict's root causes and abandon purely reactive or short-term approaches. Those root causes persist, including unequal access to land and unfair sharing of revenues from exploitation of natural resources. As local elections in 2009 approach, the absence of inter-community reconciliation and persistence of impunity for the majority of crimes committed during the war are also extremely worrying. To prevent new violence, which would affect women particularly, an integrated peacebuilding strategy has to be implemented, involving national and provincial institutions and with the active support of MONUC and donors.

Disarmament of the remaining armed groups and the recovery of the many weapons held in the different communities will not be achieved by force or by simply co-opting community leaders into national institutions. It has to be accompanied by establishing at least minimal trust between the local communities and the administration through sensitisation efforts and sustained investment in building better local governance capacity in advance of the district's elevation to province status in 2009. Another key element in creating this trust is the replacement in pacified zones of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Armed Forces (FARDC), which continue to be responsible for numerous human rights violations, by the national police force.

Beyond the issue of disarmament and restoration of state authority, and in view of the risk that the local elections could trigger renewed violence, three further major challenges have to be addressed simultaneously in the district. Land-related tensions that were at the origin of the conflict have not been eased and constantly threaten to lead to new inter-ethnic confrontations. With the return of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their homes and the resumption of economic activity, a resurgence of those tensions seems inevitable. It is, therefore, indispensable to take preventive measures on the ground and to clarify the judicial muddle linked to land law and the status of chieftainships.

Another risk for the district is the absence of transparency and justice in the management of natural resources and mining. While nepotism continues to plague local politics, the uneven, opaque distribution of revenues from exploitation of gold, collection of customs fees and, even more so, extraction of oil at Lake Albert risks causing renewed tensions. It is critical to the peace process to establish a framework for transparent management of Ituri's resources, to dismantle local mafia networks that extract resources from mining and forestry and to manage the expectations raised by the discovery of oil at Lake Albert.

Finally, inter-community reconciliation remains superficial, and local justice mechanisms are incapable of combating impunity effectively. If Ituri is to have a real chance of turning the page from a devastating war that has lasted for almost a decade, it is essential, therefore, that the International Criminal Court (ICC) continues its investigations, mixed (international/national) judicial chambers are established and a truth and reconciliation commission created.

The international community has worked hard to achieve the disarmament of armed groups and has to a large extent taken the lead in the political and military process that has allowed for their progressive surrender during the transition process. Today, the success of Congo's reconstruction hinges on Ituri, a district that has too often been ignored by Kinshasa. A voluntary and integrated approach is required that reunites national and regional institutions and international partners in order to consolidate peace there. Otherwise, the return of chaos is likely, which would signify the failure of a peace process that has so far mostly been to the advantage of warlords and has failed to bring true benefit to the victims of the conflict.


Completing the disarmament process and restoring state authority

To the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo:

1. Concentrate the deployment of FARDC in the strongholds of the Front for National Integration (FNI) and the Patriotic Force of Resistance in Ituri (FRPI) militias and systematically replace it in the rest of the district with national police force officers including residents of Ituri.

2. Order the military prosecutor to initiate official investigations into the alleged complicity of FARDC officers in the illegal exploitation of natural resources and mining in Ituri.

3. Initiate a disciplinary investigation into Governor Médard Autsai's administration of Province Orientale.

To the UN Mission in Congo (MONUC):

4. Increase tactical and operational support to FARDC in order to facilitate the encirclement of the FRPI militia, limit its capacity for movement and restrict its access to external support.

5. Create a civilian-military task force, mandated to implement an integrated strategy for finalising the disarmament of the FNI and FRPI militias that combines sensitisation and pressure and enjoys the backing of local community leaders.

To the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Donors:

6. Strengthen sensitisation projects that promote communal disarmament, accompanied by programs for reintegration of ex-combatants into agriculture, fishing, cattle raising and the rehabilitation of agricultural services and design a plan for the specific retraining of traditional miners, some of whom are ex-combatants, before they leave the mining concessions.

7. Revive programs to strengthen the administrative capacities of the district in anticipation of its elevation to province status in 2009 and provide the district with sufficient human resources to manage reintegration and reconstruction programs.

Preventing land conflicts

To the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo:

8. Initiate a process of consultations with the aim to present to parliament before the end of 2008 a revised draft of the land laws that clarifies the status of traditional chiefs.

9. Set up a research mission in collaboration with the provincial assembly of Province Orientale with the objective of proposing a new administrative division of Ituri.

To the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR):

10. Launch pilot projects for the resettlement of refugees and displaced persons based on dialogue and the sensitisation of local communities.

To Donors:

11. Ensure the regular financing of Ituri's land commission by harmonising the efforts of national and international partners involved in sensitisation efforts to prevent the eruption of land-related conflicts in the district.

Improving the management of resources and revenues, in particular with respect to customs, forestry, mining and oil exploitation

To the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo:

12. Initiate a judicial investigation into illegal forestry in order to dismantle transnational mafia networks involved in the illegal exploitation of wood.

13. Ensure strict application of the mining code; follow up the recommendations of the commission for review of mining contracts regarding OKIMO (the Congolese state-owned gold mining company); institute a moratorium on new mining and forestry concessions until a framework regulation for effective control of the sector has been put into place; and increase controls of warehouses and aircraft used for the exploitation of gold resources in order to limit the risk of illegal exports.

14. Make public the contractual relationship between the Congolese state and mining and oil companies, and ensure the transparency of payments made by these companies to state agencies.

15. Create mechanisms for the certification and tracking of minerals and other natural resources extracted in Ituri.

Promoting inter-communal reconciliation and fighting impunity

To the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo:

16. Present to the parliament legislation in conformity with the 2006 constitution to establish a truth and reconciliation commission, including a special chapter on Ituri.

17. Present legislation that incorporates the Rome Statute into the domestic legal system, including granting jurisdiction for war crimes and crimes against humanity to civilian courts, and that permits the creation of mixed (international/national) judicial chambers within the Congolese judicial system.

18. Propose the establishment of mixed (international/national) judicial chambers within the Congolese judicial system in Ituri authorised to try perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and engage in consultations with national actors and international partners to determine how these chambers should function and implement them without delay.

To the International Criminal Court:

19. Confirm publicly that the office of the prosecutor will continue to investigate atrocity crimes committed in Ituri; ensure that this includes the principal militia chiefs who have not been arrested (Jérí´me Kakwavu, Peter Karim, Cobra Matata, Floribert Kisembo Bahemuka), those responsible for the massacre at Nyakunde as well as senior Congolese, Rwandan and Ugandan officials who armed and supported the militias active in Ituri; and bring charges where criminal responsibility can be established.

More Information on the UN Security Council
More Information on the Democratic Republic of Congo
More Information on Minerals in Conflict
More Information on Timber in Conflict
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