Behind the pomp and ceremony of the inauguration of South Africa’s new President Thabo Mbeki on Wednesday will be hard bargaining among assembled regional heads of state on a workable settlement to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) conflict, government officials told IRIN.
“All the regional presidents will be in town for the inauguration and the DRC will be discussed,” foreign affairs spokesman Marco Boni said on Tuesday.
He told IRIN that he did not have any information on an alleged framework peace initiative that the US magazine ‘Newsweek’ reported Mbeki plans to unveil at the inauguration which would involve South African troops in a peacekeeping role in the DRC.
The ‘Star’ on Tuesday reported Mbeki’s spokesman as saying: “As far as we are aware, the peace initiative is being handled by the president of Zambia.”
But Boni did say that the DRC featured on the agenda of the on-going state visit of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi who is heading a complimentary peace effort. “DRC was discussed during the state visit and will continue to be discussed,” Boni added.
However, a ceasefire pact would only be the first stage in achieving an overall settlement. Almost as vexing would be agreement on the make-up and operational role of a peacekeeping force to monitor and supervise the agreement, and achieving the necessary political will among the parties to maintain the peace.
According to Cedric de Coning of the Durban-based African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD), there are three peacekeeping initiatives currently under consideration.
They involve the UN, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), and an Mbeki proposal late last year to transform the belligerents themselves into a multinational peacekeeping force under a neutral command.
In a paper on peacekeeping in the DRC received by IRIN, de Coning said basic contingency planning has already been done by the UN and OAU for a DRC mission. However, given that under optimal conditions it would still take three to five months after Security Council approval for the UN to deploy the bulk of its peacekeepers, “the OAU is contemplating filling that gap with an observer mission of its own.”
“It is important to recognise that a peacekeeping mission can only assist the parties with the implementation of their peace agreement,” de Coning argues. “The success of the ceasefire will not be determined by the UN and OAU missions, but by the willingness of the parties to make peace.”
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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