Congo, Democratic Republic of the - Foreign policy



Foreign and domestic policies converge in the sense that President Kabila's objectives have aimed for a negotiated settlement to DROC's civil war and the withdrawal of foreign troops from Congolese soil. He has succeeded in part by concluding peace deals with Rwanda (in August 2002) and Uganda (in September 2002, and again in March 2003). Although the December 2002 agreement would not have been concluded without the diplomatic prowess of UN mediator, Moustapha Niasse, Kabila deserves much credit for staying committed to these negotiations. By April 2003, most but not all, foreign troops had withdrawn, and Kabila had extracted commitments from his neighbors to respect pre-1997 Congolese borders.

Kabila's allies are still involved in resource extraction, but the number of Zimbabwean troops has been reduced, as has the influence of the Mugabe government over the DROC. The ceasefire in the Angolan civil war since April 2002 has ended the Congo's strategic role as a UNITA refuge, but Angolans are likely to remain in the country to suppress rebel activity in the oil-rich Cabinda enclave between the DROC and the Republic of the Congo. It remains to be seen what Kabila's position will be vis-à-vis Francois Bozize, leader of the military coup in the Central African Republic. The African Union (AU) condemned the March 2003 coup and called for the reinstallation of former President Ange-Félix Patasse.

Relations with Rwanda remain tense and are likely to be so until the threat against Rwandan security by the Interahamwe and other rebels is diffused, and until the Rwandan government abandons its aggressive policies in the Kivu provinces. Relations with Uganda appeared to be improving in mid-March 2003 with the conclusion of a peace deal between Kabila and the Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, involving the demobilization and disarming of the Hema and Lendu tribes in the Bunia region and an arrangement between the two governments that would swap sharing of the proceeds from natural resources in return for Ugandan recognition of the territorial integrity of the Congo.

In part, the approval by Western governments of President Kabila's foreign and domestic policies is based on Kabila's cooperation with UN observer teams, and his willingness to implement the power-sharing arrangement specified in the transition. In January 2003 the UN Security Council voted to renew the mandate of the UN panel on illegal resource exploitation for six months. The report, which named Uganda, Rwanda, and Zimbabwe as principal violators, has garnered world opinion in favor of accelerating the disengagement of foreign countries from the Congo.

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