QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
JERRY FOWLER: Well, thank you, Steve, and thanks to all the panelists.
We have time, actually, to open it up to discussion and I actually wanted to start with just one question for anyone with regard to the international commitment. One aspect that nobody talked about but that I’ve heard some people talk about as they’ve come back is that this newly created International Criminal Court in the Hague, which has jurisdiction over genocide and crimes against humanity and serious war crimes, has indicated that Congo is the first thing that it’s going to look at.
And I’m wondering if that is something that people on the ground are aware of, if you saw evidence of investigations going on, if it’s something that’s taken seriously or if it is not. Its jurisdiction only would have started after July 1, 2002 so it wouldn’t encompass crimes ever committed before that. But I just wonder if you’ve heard any talk of it on the ground, if it’s having any effect?
STEPHEN SMITH: I heard a little bit and this is just a vignette. It’s not a major answer but people were talking about it and among the Congolese leaders and even some of the MONUC people they were a little leery of it, thinking that it might be too early for that. And part of the reason is that two of the four vice presidents are former rebel leaders who were involved in mass killings.
A lot of the people in the 35 committees that they’ve set up and in the transitional government are former rebel leaders and they’re concerned that the criminal court if you bring it in too early and start worrying about the prosecutions of those people might derail some of the other things that are going on.
So I think certainly the people we’ve talked about and talked to wanted some sort of reconciliation but the question is when is it going to be appropriate and when is it going to be effective.
LEARNED DEES: Just to add to that, I think that’s what I would call the top down perspective, people worried about the peace being on track, worrying about will justice destabilize peace. That’s the top down.
From the bottom up it’s quite the opposite. People want justice. After five years of conflict they want to see the person who did whatever they did to their families, their village, their town punished. And there’s a focus on how do you put an end to impunity if you don’t have justice during this period.
So from the bottom up it’s a different perspective. They know it’s a complicating factor because you’ve got momentum, you’ve got all these things, but as tolerant as the Congolese people are it’s hard to forget what’s happened without a sense of justice.
JERRY FOWLER: Do you have anything to add?
CLIFF BERNATH: I think it just goes to show how complicated it is and how difficult the problem really I, ethically when you try to form these governments with former combatants. Look at Sierra Leone with Foday Sanko. You put someone in the government whose movement was chopping off the arms of little children. How can you form a government of those kinds of people and expect a good solution or a good outcome?
I think that a lot of what we do is expedient in these situations. In order to try to achieve a greater good, which is an end to the general conflict, we have to work with what, and who, is available. But sometimes we make deals that aren’t really good deals—they are just the best deals possible at this time.
JERRY FOWLER: Yes?
QUESTION: —— and my question is if they are —— people who are going to end up being tried there are going to be the leaders who gave the orders —— hurt someone else —— so do you feel that —— the ICC —— justice on the ground and seeking justice for the people and their families to work together —— or do you think not improvise ——
CLIFF BERNATH: That’s a good question. People who are at the top—UN and DCR leaders--currently are negotiating peace. They are looking at whether it’s a destabilizing factor try to focus on establishing a government at the same time they would have to hold many of the people who are key to that government accountable to the ICC.
People who are in a village or in a town are aware that that’s out there as a possible solution but they’re also suggesting that there are also national courts.
So from the perspective of people who have been victims or who have had loved ones who are victims they want an intermediate mechanism for justice and that can be a local court. It could be a national court, it could be a hybrid court but very much they’re looking for that sort of justice on a local level and if the ICC happens and it prosecutes whoever it prosecutes that’s fine but they’re looking at how it can have an impact on the local level.
JERRY FOWLER: Did you --
LEARNED DEES: I was going to add one thing just to think about this and I don’t have a good answer but what do you do when all the leaders and all the forces are involved in these activities?
That’s something to think about.
QUESTION: A question for all three. How significant or important is Ambassador Swing—— do you think that his presence, his personality ——
CLIFF BERNATH: I can start. A few things: One, he replaced an SRSG who was criticized for being too passive, too rear-leaning in his approach.
Second, Ambassador Swing is certainly credible throughout the Congo, throughout the area as an expert. He is also close to the Administration so he brings that aggressiveness and ability to go back and meet with the powers in Washington, D.C.
If you’ve heard him speak, if you’ve been in any meetings with him, he’s a very impressive guy and he is not one to look at the status quo and accept it.
A year ago and more, people were saying hey, why do you have all of those MONUC troops in Kisangani and along this cease-fire line where they can’t do any good. It wasn’t like rocket science to realize that they could be deployed better, but it took somebody who was willing to go against the grain and it really did go against the grain to redeploy those troops because some of the countries involved, like Uruguay, had to renegotiate the troop status there.
So I would say that Bill Swing is a critical part of the solution right now.
JERRY FOWLER: Yes, sir.
QUESTION: My question —— you spoke about the political process and —— what specific role does the US play at this time? The US ——
LEARNED DEES: The first question about the US role I can’t really speak as a representative, but it’s an interesting issue because it comes up in meetings I had with organizations on the ground.
And I think there are two things at play. One is that when the administration changed from Democrat to Republican the policy changed and the policy changed substantially as we have seen with the increased support from MONUC because of what happened September 11th, because of the general policy.
There’s been an 180 degree turn in the importance of Congo. I mean, Ambassador Swing being nominated to MONUC means that not only is the will of the international community serious but the person who’s at the head of MONUC is very serious.
So there’s an idea because the war started the Democrat administration seemed to be more sympathetic to Rwanda that that reality is static and so I had that conversation with a lot of people. But in reality I think that what I see is quite different. The current administration has made a calculation that the war should end and however the war should end they’re willing to back it up.
I heard Ambassador Swing on the radio a couple of weeks ago and he was saying we have brought in attack helicopters. We want to use attack helicopters for all those who are not cooperating.
I mean, the idea that even though, let’s say, countries in the region continue to sponsor proxies they’re clearly on notice that there will be a consequence for that.
So the fact that there has been a change, I think, has been slow to register because of the genesis of the war but in reality I think there’s been a seismic shift in policy and that shift is playing itself out in the progress that I talked about that just happened in the last year.
The whole issue of ethnic mobilization, I think that you’re right, that people will mobilize on those areas, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be destabilizing. It depends on how that mobilization happens.
And what happens is maybe like even in politics here if you look at an election year you get the extreme views as people try to outflank their opponents to pull in their base. But there are voices that say coalitions are necessary, even ethnic coalitions, and there are voices that say we need to drive you out of our area and clearly that’s not sustainable in a urban and cosmopolitan city like most of these cities in the east or the west of the country. It’s just not sustainable.
CLIFF BERNATH: I agree with most of what you said. I have one slight difference, though. I don’t think that the US change came as a result of 9/11 or as a change in the administration.
Last year when we got back from our trip in November we started talking to members of the US UN Mission, members of Congress, and different members of the administration in the State Department, for example, We were still hearing “no” to a Chapter 7 mandate, “no” to any increase in the strength of MONUC, that this is a Congolese problem. This is what they were telling us as late as last year and early this year.
I think that what happened and the reason we changed, and we did change, is that the UN was about to have another failure and I think that that’s what mobilized the international community to say we can’t afford that, we can’t afford for the UN to fail, much as they couldn’t afford for it to fail in UNAMSIL in Sierra Leone. I think that was a motivating factor more than the politics of it.
Now certainly we’re paying 27 percent of the cost of MONUC. That’s a lot of money. Chapter 7 could not have happened unless the US as part of the P-5 on the UN Security Council okayed it, so we certainly have the policy to support it now. I just don’t think it was 9/11.
I’m not an expert. I would say the one thing that concerns me right now and something that we should be looking at is the US government’s new agreement with Uganda to provide military assistance their military. W e don’t have any ways of knowing how much of what we’re giving to Uganda is filtering across the border into the Congo, and I don’t know if there are ways to look at that but it’s a concern.
LEARNED DEES: I’ll just respond to the economic one quickly if that’s all right. The economic issue is primarily a governance issue in my view. Where you have no governance economic exploitation resources is easy. Where you have good, strong governance and structures in place then it’s difficult for that to happen.
And so I think the focus right now needs to be on getting governance up and running in Eastern Congo and regional agreements to deal with some of these economic issues.
QUESTION: —— the reasons why —— DRC was —— the DDRRR —— solution ——
CLIFF BERNATH: It’s not that they say that they don’t claim DDRRR as part of their mission. They certainly do.
They are too willing to say that others have the lead on certain parts of DDRRR and then do little but wait. The demobilization of the Congolese is part of the Kinshasa government’s problem, for example. But they certainly support their parts of DDRRR. The Interahamwe are still part of their mission and they accept that.
The numbers they are demobilizing —— have been very low. So it’s not that they’re not saying it’s part of their mission. It’s just that they’re not being very aggressive about it.
And they also feel that Rwanda should do more to get the reintegration message to their people —— that they want them back. They say that Rwanda isn’t doing enough.
Don’t take that as they don’t claim it as their mission. It’s certainly one of their mission elements.
JERRY FOWLER: As I understand it you’re criticizing MONUC for not being more proactive. So to that degree there’s a certain amount of concurrence. Did you have a comment?
QUESTION: I just wanted to raise this issue of resources again and to get anybody’s opinion about whether —— right now is willing to respond to some of these —— to pursue an inquiry —— are they going to do that further to what degree? And then regarding resources —— what is the —— status of —— is there any money going into the Kinshasa —— or what is the status of ——
LEARNED DEES: The whole issue of MONUC’s role and monitoring resource extraction, officially I don’t they actually have a role. I think the UN panel is still empaneled and I think they’re supposed to send out their investigators to do another report. But this goes back to something Cliff said having to do with MONUC not having intelligence capabilities.
Officially that’s true but unofficially they’re all over the place and they’re observers and they see a lot. In fact they’re probably more informed than the intelligence services of the countries because they don’t have people on the ground.
So they do see a lot of this. They’re aware of it. It’s written down on paper, where it goes, does it go back to the panelists. In an official way I’m not sure but they’re certainly paying attention to those things and they have people all over.
They have a good intelligence, meaning informational network, all over the country so they’re aware who goes in, what weapons come in, what resources go out. What happens to that information I’m not sure.
What was the second question there?
QUESTION: The status of —— where is the money going? Is it going into the government ——
LEARNED DEES: I’m not sure about the —— specifically but in terms of the general question about resources going into the government coffers there have been lots of promises. In fact the big news while I was there was that Kabila made a promise that state employees would get paid by the end of October and so everybody was really waiting to see if that was going to happen. They were like this is the big test.
But I assume he made that promise based on the fact that he had money coming in to actually be able to do it so I know there have been a lot of promises but whether he has liquidity I’m not sure.
CLIFF BERNATH: I don’t know how far to go into this but a lot of the informal discussions, the informal understandings, in the formal peace accord on who gets to stay where and what chief gets to be where and who gets to control what territory has to do with the issue of resources and control of resources.
So in some ways, the current transitional government is founded on lots and lots of private agreements about who gets to control what resources and for how long. It’s even down to how many months certain people get to be in a certain place.
And so when you address this issue, you have to always keep in mind that there’s an awful lot at play behind the scenes.
JERRY FOWLER: That actually was a question raised in my mind by your original presentation. When you’re talking about informal dialogue between General Padiri and the RCD what’s the dynamic of this negotiation? Is it a negotiation based on just carving up resources among warlords or is there an aspect to it where it’s based on principles and there are people underneath it who are resolving conflicts?
I wasn’t really clear from your presentation on that.
STEPHEN SMITH: That’s a very good question and each negotiation is different depending on what people want. With this particular Mai-Mai group they had issues of local governance, protection of their villagers from attacks by RCD military, some autonomy for the areas under their control.
Now, certainly autonomy in places in Eastern Congo, particularly around that part of the world, implies access to resources. It always implies access to resources. At a really fundamental level the problem of Congo is that its economy is based purely on exploitation of resources. There is no value-added economy in the Congo today. It’s all extraction and subsistence farming.
There’s no value added on the products so there’s no wealth creation. So everyone is out to get whatever little bit they can and the only way they see to survive is to have access to some mineral or some timber or some piece of something as opposed to a healthy, normal, growing economy that has a number of sectors and a lot of opportunity.
JERRY FOWLER: Yes.
CLIFF BERNATH: I think that negotiations are occurring on a lot of different levels and what Steve is describing is what’s going on on the ground level of negotiations. In Kinshasa the power sharing agreement, for example, tries to rise above self-interest. I don’t know that even in our government we rise above self-interest but one control that they’re trying to implement is that a military commander will not be assigned to the region where his troops are. This is a positive.
And they’re working with world communities as advisors and Ambassador Swing sits in on these meetings. So at that level they’re trying to implement the government that they can export to the rest of the country.
They developed a constitution that at least on paper says pretty much the right things. Probably we have to keep our hopes up and our expectations down. The hope is that they can build on it but it’s not going to happen real quickly.
And it goes back to this long-term commitment to making it happen but there are signs that that’s what’s attempting to be done.
CLIFF BERNATH: Well, I don’t know how it filters down. These commanders who are in Kinshasa still have their seconds in command down there on the ground and I imagine they have a way of getting information to them that they can influence what’s happening down there.
QUESTION: And then also the proxies from ——
STEPHEN SMITH: I think the issue of resources is important in two aspects. One is what you’re talking about, the exploitation of extractive minerals basically. But also the conversation has filtered down because in talking to people about what the challenges are for a unified government in the Congo I got a interesting analysis from some Congolese who are no longer worried about Rwandans and Ugandans and that sort of thing.
But we’re worried about the Congolese politicians. When the World Bank and the IMF actually give the money will the money be used properly? The whole the money is going in, where will it come out, and that is an issue for civil society to monitor because given the history, given the legacy of Mobutism, we know what happened to the money. It went to France. It went to Citibank, et cetera, et cetera.
And so the realization is even with the money that’s coming in to jump- start the economy there needs to be a level of monitoring that previously didn’t exist or else that money in addition to the other money will probably not filter down to the local level. And so there’s a real concern about how do you actually do that.
Will the international community work with us to make sure that this is an open process where we can actually know much is going in? How much was for that road, that sort of thing. So it has filtered down and some people realize that in fact maybe that’s the most important issue, how do you monitor the official resources of the country.
JERRY FOWLER: Yes, sir.
JERRY FOWLER: Thank you very much. Comment on his observations?
CLIFF BERNATH: Well, you point out the regional challenges, the ethnic challenges, and you have to acknowledge them. They’re real.
I think, though, you have to put it in the context that there is more of a process that can lead to --
-- at the beginning of this phase here they haven’t really addressed the exit strategy on here.
QUESTION: So what you’re saying is ——
CLIFF BERNATH: Well, we go to New York, we talk to DPKO, the peacekeeping operations at that level—— and his people. We talked to the US UN mission there. We talked to members of Congress here, Representative Royce’s committee on Africa, so it’s advocacy across the board. Whoever will listen to us we’ll talk to them.
QUESTION: Yes, sir. You spoke about —— future. To what extent ——
STEPHEN SMITH: Survive.
LEARNED DEES: Well, I think one of the things that I saw is that those who have bought in at the highest level have gotten something in return. Whether that’s enough or attractive in a long-term way I’m not sure.
In other words here in Kinshasa you’ve got something. The bigger problem, I think, is not so much that level. It’s the local level where people aren’t sure whether they’re going to be in the new army.
We’re talking about Congolese. They’re not sure if they’re going to be in the new army. They’re not sure they’re going to get any resources to be reintegrated. They’re not sure they’re going to be forgiven for what they’ve done.
The same with the RCD folks, what future might they have. In other words they become the big risk, not so much the people who are living comfortably in Gombe and Kinshasa but the people who are living very uncomfortably because they have an uncertain future in the forest. Those are the people who are likely to be greatest destabilizing force. That’s my perspective.
CLIFF BERNATH: I would agree. You see at the national level, Padiri is not a nice guy but he made a key concession on power sharing that wasn’t in his favor which was a good sign that there’s something going on beyond self-interest.
At the ground level we talked to a brigade commander in Walungu, an RCD-Goma brigade commander, who was waiting to see what was going to happen up there. He personally wanted to join the national army. Most of his troops wanted to get out but he wasn’t letting them go. He wasn’t making a decision until he saw which way the wind was blowing down at that level.
STEPHEN SMITH: The question everyone was asking just before the formation of the transitional government was qu’est-ce que je vais devenir and that translates as what will I become, in other words what am I going to get.
And the problem is there isn’t enough to go around. The poverty is intense and once you get past a certain level in any organization there just isn’t enough right now.
And so the scarcity, the lack of any kind of economic opportunity underlies this entire question. I think if there was economic opportunity it wouldn’t make the other things easy because it’s simple to say well, give everyone a job and everything will be fine, and I wish it were that easy.
But the truth is that people have suffered an awful lot, more than most of us can imagine, and just giving people a job or some place in the army isn’t going to be enough but you have to at least do that and you have to be thinking and working very hard to make sure there’s enough to go around.
And I think that’s got to be one of the primary goals of the international community in their intervention is getting the economy going.
JERRY FOWLER: I think with that we’ll wrap up. I really appreciate your coming and I’d like to have you join me in thanking our panel.