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The CFSP in action: The Congo


The Democratic Republic of Congo, the largest of the countries in Africa’s Great Lakes region, has suffered from civil war, attempted secession and dictatorship in its 46 years since independence.

While the main international efforts to bring peace and stability to strife-riven Congo (known as Zaire between 1971 & 1997) has always been through the United Nations, the EU has in recent years been making a significant contribution to this effort.

Historical Background

Congo became independent from Belgium in 1960. Belgium had been the colonial power since 1908 following 30 years of rapacious and brutal direct rule by King Leopold of the Belgians. On independence, for which it was wholly unprepared, Congo descended into chaos which continues to this day. There has been: political assassination (Patrice Lumumba, its first Prime Minister, in 1961); civil war (secession of Katanga; 1960-63); military dictatorship (Mobutu 1965 -1997 and Laurent-Desire Kabila 1997-2001); and war with, and invasion by, neighbours (Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe) following the flight of the perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide into Eastern Congo (1994-99).

In 2002 Kabila’s son Joseph, who took over when his father was murdered in 2001, set in train moves which led to a government of national unity in April 2002, the composition of which was settled a year later in April 2003. Despite further rebellions (notably in and around Bunia in the North East following the withdrawal of Ugandan troops), a coup attempt in 2004 and delays in holding elections, a new constitution was overwhelmingly approved in December 2005. Presidential elections were successfully held in 2006

The EU Role

In 1996 the EU appointed Aldo Ajello as Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region (reflecting wider problems in the area, including in Rwanda and Burundi as well as Congo). The EU became a partner in the International Committee to Assist the Transition (CIAT) in the DRC in 2003, along with other key nations and organisations, such as the UN Security Council permanent members, the African Union and South Africa

The withdrawal of Uganda troops from North-East DRC in 2003 was followed by the city of Bunia being seized by militia from the UN force (MONUC) and the killing of many of its citizens. The EU deployed its first ever EDSP force outside Europe when it sent a force (Artemis) to back up MONUC in Bunia. The force was instrumental in restoring order and was later absorbed into an enlarged MONUC.

The 2006 Elections

Elections originally planned for April were eventually held on 30 July 2006. To assist the electoral process, the UN Security Council mandated the EU to provide a military force to back up MONUC on a temporary basis.

The EU force (EUFOR RD Congo) was given responsibility for supporting MONUC, contributing to the protection of Kinshasa Airport and for maintaining a capability to extract people in danger. Most of the force was based in neighbouring Gabon, as a rapidly deployable battalion-sized force, with 400-500 troops based in Kinshasa. The majority of the troops came from Germany and France. The operation was successful in enabling the elections to go ahead in a largely peaceful atmosphere. The force is now being withdrawn, its time-limited mission having been completed.

The first round of the presidential election did not produce an outright victor, Kabila taking 44.8 per cent if the vote and his nearest rival, Jean Pierre Bemba, 20 per cent. This result was followed by substantial loss of life in clashes between supporters of the two candidates in Kinshasa in August. A run-off was held on 29 October 2006 and Kabila won comfortably, with 58 per cent of the vote compared to Bemba’s 42 per cent. Although Bemba said he would challenge the result in the courts on the grounds of polling irregularities, international observers (many of them from the EU) declared the poll to have been largely free and fair.

The EU Police Mission

The EU has two other missions in the DRC. They are EUPOL Kinshasa, a police mission in the capital and the EU’s security sector reform mission (EUSEC DR Congo).

The police mission was launched in April 2005 in co-operation with the United Nations. The Government of the DRC wanted assistance with the training of police officers so that a neutral police force would be trained and ready to takeover when the MONUC force withdraws. The EU civilian police mission consists of about 30 staff who work with the Congolese-led Integrated Police Unit.

The EU Security Reform Mission

The security reform mission began in June 2005 and is tasked with helping the Congolese security authorities to raise standards in terms of the protection of human rights, transparency and the rule of law. The experts supplied by the EU hold office in the Congolese administration.

EU Humanitarian Aid

EU humanitarian aid to the DRC has been considerable and vital. Following the signing of the Cotonou Agreement in 2002 between the DRC and the EU, a programme to fight poverty, rebuild institutions and support the economy was agreed. The programme runs from 2003-07, with about €750 million have been spent in the first two years. The EU contributed about 80 per cent of the cost of the 2006 elections and substantial humanitarian aid through a mixture of Community funds and bilateral contributions from Member States. That aid programme is likely to increase further now that the presidential election has been successfully held.

December 2006

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