Frédéric Boyenga-Bofala
The End Of The Great Lakes Crisis

A Five-Year Plan
Ending the Crisis in the Great Lakes  

1. Why a five-year plan and why is it necessary?

Jawaharlal NEHRU said: "When people find out that you are going in a certain direction, they become optimistic. They are willing to accept a delay, a short delay, because they know they are going somewhere. It is only when they don't feel they're getting anywhere that they become angry."

It is because my political judgement has kept me away from Utopias, because my enthusiasm has made me attempt the impossible and because my fierce obstinacy   I pursue any goal that I've set myself right to the end   has made me tackle obstacles with a combination of passion and calm, that I am putting forward this plan, a plan that I admit will not be to everyone's taste. But my firm belief is that the crisis of the Great Lakes will not forever escape the general process leading to its total eradication. Even so, it is especially important not to harbour any illusions about the length of the phase that we still have to get through before we can arrive at a definite end to the crisis. This is achievable, although it will take patience and persistence.

If we want to put a stop in a responsible way to the crisis that has been raging for more than a decade in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we need to develop a plan containing strategic forecasts that is more proactive than the policy currently being pursued. For this reason, it is appropriate to adopt a cautious yet determined approach; whereby a deadline and specific stages must be defined, so as to avoid any brutal and harmful setbacks. The reason we need a plan is not just because of the complicated nature of the stabilisation and pacification process of the Kivu, Ituri and all the Great Lakes region affected by the conflict, with all their political, security, economic and social implications; but because a strict implementation schedule that will help us overcome the inevitable resistance and unexpected obstacles is also a complicated process in its own right.

It is precisely because I am fundamentally convinced that the policy of appeasement pursued for more than a decade through various resolutions of the Security Council and a number of cycles of African negotiations   which are themselves real vicious circles   may be disastrous, that I hope to see all those who are working for the final ending of the Great Lakes crisis being motivated by a desire to devise a graduated, timetabled policy, within the framework of which the different aspects of each phase of the process designed to lead to a final, comprehensive settlement of the conflict will be co-ordinated. For such a policy can only be conceived of in terms of successive stages. This amounts to recommending the adoption of a credible action plan and the creation of a well-defined schedule and carefully timed settlement of all the problems underlying the crisis.

Without a credible strategic plan, as well as a strict schedule, it would be impossible to restore and maintain peace and security in the Great Lakes region, disarm and demilitarise, solve the refugee problem, normalise relations between the states involved and set up some solid milestones for the revival of the regional integration process. Therefore, final solutions to all these problems are emerging as fundamental prerequisites. And without a plan or an implementation schedule, it will also be impossible to organise the orderly withdrawal of MONUSCO combat forces from Congolese territory, something that would signal the end of the Great Lakes crisis.

Five years is a length of time representing a balance between what would be desirable in an ideal world and what the real threat would be if we do not commit ourselves to a clear, fair policy with specific targets. In fact, the crisis could end even sooner than in five years' time if everyone had the willpower for that. This five-year period can be explained by the level of seriousness that should be attached to resolving all the problems underlying the Great Lakes crisis. To believe that 60 months will be enough to clean up all the wounds and the awful mischief of the long period of troubles that our country and the entire Great Lakes region have been going through since the Rwandan genocide, is to have a vision about where our common future is headed. I completely reject adventurism and improvisation. Our aim is to be able to mark the return to regional stability with a firmly established general renaissance of the area. This is about putting down robust milestones that would prevent the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and the entire Great Lakes region from one day sinking back into chaos, as easily as it has done, as we have already seen.

And no fully informed politician would deny that it is possible, in five years, by means of a strategic plan and a clear vision, to restore and preserve the peace, stability and future of both Eastern Congo and the entire Great Lakes region. I am convinced that this plan will enable us to clamber out of the crisis that we are trapped in, so that the Great Lakes region can once again regain its vitality and cohesion.

2. The Principles to be Applied, so as to Ensure the Total Success of this Plan

I prefer a gradual peace to one that never happens at all. Real negotiations to uncertain negotiations, without in any way prejudicing the attainment of an overall agreement in the end. From the foregoing, it is apparent that I instinctively lean towards compromise and common ground, rather than confrontation. And I think that if any action plan for a comprehensive peace in the Great Lakes region is to be successful, there must be observance by the parties of a few simple but essential principles.

The Principle of Equality.

Taking due account of the limitations imposed by the interconnectedness, I believe that we must act according to the principle that all the major issues related to this crisis require a coordinated response. No nation can or should try to dominate any other nation.

It follows from this that any comprehensive peace plan, if it is to put an end in a responsible fashion to the Great Lakes crisis, will only have a chance of succeeding if it refrains from setting up a victor and the vanquished, refrains from brutally penalising the behaviour of any of the parties, nor should it reward or punish any of them. Peace would be their common reward; and any continuation of the conflict their shared misfortune. This outstretched arm imposes responsibility on every one of the parties. At this moment, I am profoundly convinced of this.

The principle of the need for active collaboration between the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi in the implementation of this plan

One of the main weaknesses of the settlement process of the Great Lakes crisis lies in the conditional nature of the actions of the states concerned, which is intended to create a virtuous circle but instead, immediately creates a vicious circle. Rwanda makes its actual participation in the peace process conditional on the neutralisation of the Hutu armed groups backed by the Congolese authorities; while the latter make normalisation of relations conditional on the discontinuation of all aid and assistance by the Rwandan authorities to certain armed Congolese groups speaking the languages of Rwanda. Uganda demands that Congo neutralise the Ugandan rebels who are currently rampaging in eastern Congo. The Rwandans, for their part, accuse the Congolese of being intransigent with regard to the non-negotiable nature of certain issues; while the Congolese criticised the Rwandans for their solipsistic mindset. We have been going round in circles like this for more than ten years now. Basically, we are in a situation where a resolution of the conflict is now inconceivable without going through an agonising ordeal in which one of the protagonists achieves a decisive military victory.

I think it is time to break out of this absurd cycle. The duties of the parties arise from UN resolutions and therefore from international law and the effects of peace negotiations. They are therefore unconditional, in no way dependent on the way in which our adversary has fulfilled its own obligations and, if it is important to help the parties so as to make things easier for them, the latter deserve neither reward nor any compensation as the cost of their tardy good conduct. Above all, we must act together on all the aspects and theatres of the conflict, so as to prevent even the slightest mistake or fault from bringing the entire house down. In fact, the infinite conditionality method has led to a situation where the keys to either war or peace have been placed in the hands of the armed groups that roam the region.

The principle of accepting a final, enlightened round of negotiations on a final halt to the Great Lakes crisis

"The wise always know how to make a virtue out of necessity."8

As between the free and sovereign peoples of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda, there is absolutely no higher judge on earth before whom they can appear in order to obtain a ruling which would decide their disputes. For that reason, if they want to end those disputes, they have no choice but to engage in negotiations leading to an amicable settlement or else, in the absence of that, just to let events take their course and see what emerges.

While the defeat of the M23 rebels could certainly pave the way for the implementation of a comprehensive solution for peace and security in the Great Lakes region, what use is a regional solution that does not directly involve Rwanda and Uganda? Precisely at the time where a glimmer of peace looms in eastern Congo, a final round of enlightened negotiations between the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda is necessary to really light up the way ahead leading to a final cessation of the Great Lakes crisis. It would seem clear that I instinctively lean towards compromise and mutual agreement, rather than confrontation.

In order to end this crisis, we cannot advocate anything other than negotiations. But such negotiations can only be begun if they are preceded by a frank and direct dialogue between the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. This dialogue requires the prior mutual renunciation of both direct and indirect warfare, it being understood that each of the parties with nevertheless always be able to regain their freedom of action in the event of insurmountable failure; something which I find hard to imagine in this case and in view of the plan proposed. I venture to hope that this final, enlightened round of negotiations would restore the more humane habits and customs that once governed all our mutual relations; and, with the weapons having fallen silent, we will no longer hear the sound of clashing iron and steel and the floor will be given over to reason. It may be objected, quite rightly, that for the past decade we have done nothing but negotiate and yet the crisis is still there, along with its usual accompaniment of misfortunes and its victims. The fact is that if I analyse all the negotiations begun to date, I can advance my case by stating that they were limited to the illusory, if not dangerous, quest for nothing more than a semblance of peace.

This is all the more true given that the negotiations in the Great Lakes crisis suffer from the lack of a clear and specific goal. All of these negotiations, which were carried on under the auspices of either the United Nations or the African union, only resulted in policies providing a temporary subsidence of hostilities, because the representatives of the states involved were only negotiating with a view to reaching an agreement, not on ending the crisis, but on ensuring the triumph of the interests for which they were entrusted with responsibility.

Careful scrutiny has enabled me to gather together in a number of categories the objectives pursued hitherto by states in the various negotiations carried on from Addis Ababa to Kampala and other places: extension in time: here, certain states have sought to prolong existing conditions in order to confirm the status quo; the negotiations were also sought as a way of gaining time and/or deceiving other protagonists: this concerns essentially delaying tactics; there was also negotiation for negotiation's sake: the objective here was quite simply to negotiate as an end in itself. Above all, the primary goal has been to maintain contact with each other, as a way of preventing the situation from escaping beyond the control of the nation state parties. Sometimes, it was also a case of introducing a new actor or some political organisations aligned with states involved in the negotiations, so as to confer on them a particular status or provide them with a legitimacy that they did not enjoy previously.

We can see that, in fact, up to now, in the negotiations for the Great Lakes crisis, very often the function of a negotiator has been to ensure the victory of his country's interests and not to bring about successful negotiations in the sense of a final resolution of this conflict. You may say that this attitude is not only something that the protagonists can admit to, it is patently obvious.

So what in fact should be the objective of negotiations in the Great Lakes crisis? I think that it is not to lead to some kind of illusionary progress in peace building which would come about while ignoring the fundamental interests of the states involved. I also think that it is not about ensuring at all costs and in contempt of any other consideration the triumph of the primary interests of the state that one happens to represent, because this trial would prove illusionary in the long run. We have no interest whatsoever in achieving unbalanced agreements. They are simply ineffective.

Any actor that takes the initiative in the negotiations must have, in order to begin the process, a direct objective in mind. Anyone who joins him in that endeavour must also derive some benefit from this or at least be forced to do so. This is why I invite all interested states to accept the principle of final, enlightened negotiations with one objective: a formal agreement on a definitive end to the Great Lakes crisis.

The purpose of the negotiations is to agree beforehand on the objective of the plan; which is to put an end in a responsible manner to this crisis and to work towards the achievement of this goal. This implies a change in attitudes and behaviour during negotiations. I know that the success of these negotiations as a way of ending this crisis is still affected by a number of requirements. That's why I am asking that we tackle all the problems head-on and for them to be finally settled, so that these negotiations have some prospect of success.

I am firmly convinced, however: at the present time, this crisis has no problems that can't be solved. If you just look at the problems in a way that is devoid of complacency or nationalism, it is clear that they are not insurmountable. Essentially, it is the national governments themselves that have created or keep these problems in being; this is due to a lack of confidence in their abilities, as well as   especially   the psychological inability to actually decide to put an end to this conflict. In fact, in order for peace negotiations to succeed, you need both the willingness and the ability to make a decision accordingly. Therefore, let us not exclude any issue whatsoever from the negotiations. I suggest that all problems   subject to the limits imposed by common sense   should be dealt with within the negotiations. I have no idea whether all the participants will be able to come up with an acceptable response to all problems. But what I do know for sure is that problems exist and if they are not resolved, they will be a tragic and lasting burden on the Great Lakes region. My intention is to appeal to everyone's spirit of understanding. I believe that we have arrived at a point in time where, over and above all the differences and controversies, we have to make a major effort to try to understand each other. This is because only a certain degree of mutual understanding is capable of dispelling the tension, anxiety and even the anguish, which prevail today in too many minds.

In these new, final and enlightened negotiations, we must change our perspective. I urge states to show moderation: this means, scaling down their ambitions, tempering their passions although not unconditional surrender to their negotiating partners, so that an agreement on ending the crisis can be achieved. I recall the urgent need to sublimate, in this final negotiating phase, personal and selfish interests in favour of collective interests; this would demonstrate good faith, loyalty and the willingness to give the decisions so arrived at maximum effect. I recall my aspiration for the development of a genuine, regional Great Lakes mindset. I advocate the search for a common destiny via the practice of the virtue that is mutual understanding, even if our immediate individual interests may sometimes conflict with each other. And I invite all stakeholders to join me in this new mindset: i.e. no longer conducting negotiations just so that the primary interests of our individual country prevail, because ultimately such a triumph would be illusory. From now on, we need to negotiate, so as to achieve a formal end to the Great Lakes crisis. For this reason, we need to accept the purpose of the negotiations and the ultimate purpose of the plan.

To achieve this, I propose that the United Nations appoints a Senior Mediator , who must be a figure of international stature with high moral character and unquestionable credibility; with a degree of experience and whose role will be to reconcile the opposing claims of the parties and to assuage the resentment that might occur between the states involved here.

This Senior Mediator 's mission would be to restore true and sincere contacts between the states. In this case, it would be a case of bringing states together, in order to set up a dialogue and negotiations between them. Thanks to the work of the Senior Mediator , genuine negotiations might be able to be resumed between antagonistic states and could conceivably lead to a peaceful settlement of the crisis.

Beyond a reconnection, I invite the Senior Mediator to put before the states involved in the crisis in the Great Lakes region a draft treaty of peace, friendship and entente cordiale, and to this end, to convene an intergovernmental conference under the auspices of the United Nations.

The principle of reality and utility

A peace plan that has any chance of succeeding in the Great Lakes crisis must resolutely come under the auspices of the Security Council, for which it could constitute an important implementation modality. At this point, what I am referring to is a basic principle of reality. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi would not normally need an imposed settlement: it is up to them to negotiate a peace treaty in due course. I would remind readers that peace, freedom and justice cannot be handled at a remove: it is the Congolese, the Rwandans, the Ugandans and the Burundians who must resolve this crisis, if at all possible. What they need is a realistic, political, psychological and safe environment that enables the parties to escape their sterile face-to-face confrontation - in effect, a diplomatic straitjacket that would force them to negotiate meaningfully. It is at this level that the roles of the United Nations and the African Union are crucial for translating the plan into action, which aims to:

- end the crisis in the Great Lakes responsibly
- restart the process of regional integration in the Great Lakes.


8 MACHIAVELLI, "Discourses on the first decade of Titius Livius."