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South Africa calls for tough line

South Africa has criticised Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) President Laurent-Desire Kabila for stalling the Congolese peace process and said that regional leaders will decide on whether to impose punitive sanctions. South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said on an SABC television programme on Sunday that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) “should not be held at ransom by one person”. She added that sanctions “probably would work to some degree” to persuade Kabila to accept the deployment of UN peacekeepers throughout the country and agree to the mediation of former Botswana president Ketumile Masire in internal all-party talks. However, DRC analyst Claude Kabemba at South Africa’s Centre for Policy Studies said that sanctions would have little impact on a government that fails to provide even the most basic of services for its people, while the two outstanding issues to a settlement could be negotiated away. “There’s a need for a strong stand vis-a-vis Kabila and anybody else who wants to stand in the way of the peace process,” he told IRIN. “But this issue goes deeper and could divide SADC - not everyone (in SADC) believes Kabila is being completely unreasonable. Kabila may appear stubborn, but to be realistic, he cannot just give up - he’s trying to protect his power.” Kabemba said sanctions would have to be supported by Kabila’s military backers - Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia. While Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has been prepared to “talk tough” to Kabila over accepting Masire as mediator, in the final analysis the only real threat that Mugabe could wield over an intransigent Kabila would be to withdraw from the DRC. “But he wants to get out with dignity. After the sacrifice of sending troops there, I don’t think he would want to get out without achieving anything,” Kabemba stressed. Zimbabwe has been “telling Kabila that he can’t run away from the inter-Congolese dialogue and a mediator, but that mediator does not have to be Masire alone. I think it’s an issue that can be negotiated around,” Kabemba said in reference to an initiative by Namibia to appoint two other mediators to assist Masire.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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