Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Peace Agreement

THURSDAY, 18 MAY 2006

PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
---

The House met at …
The Speaker took the Chair and requested members to observe a moment for silent prayer or meditation.

QUESTIONS TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA

Question 10:

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Madam Chairperson, since late 2002 considerable progress has indeed been made to obtain lasting peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Our own constructive engagement as a country culminated in the landmark signing in Pretoria of the global and all-inclusive agreement between the belligerents in the Congolese conflict on 16 December 2002. This agreement was then endorsed in the final session of the Inter-Congolese dialogue at Sun City in April 2003.

This paved the way for the setting up in June 2003 of the current transitional government of national unity, which drew in the various warring factions in the DRC. A government was established, a two-chamber parliament was established, an interim constitution was negotiated and promulgated and various other institutions were established.

I believe, Madam Chairperson, that all of this represents enormous strides forward that the DRC took. On 18 December 2005 the Congolese voted in a referendum to approve the constitution that is currently in force; a constitution that had been negotiated by the institutions established as a result of the interim constitution.
What was very encouraging, of course, about it was, first of all, the high level of registration of voters for the referendum and the high level of participation, as well as the fact that 84% of the electorate voted in support of that constitution.

That I think clearly demonstrated the commitment and the desire of the people of the Congo to move to the democratic elections that a number of decades they have been waiting for. That constitution, of course, was promulgated on 18 February 2006 in a ceremony that we were privileged to attend.

Subsequent to that, Madam Chairperson, the electoral law was approved and promulgated in March 2006, which then paved the way for the holding of the elections later this year. Originally the elections were intended to be held before 30 June 2006, but for various technical reasons it became impossible to do that. Therefore a new date for the parliamentary elections and the first round of the presidential elections has been set as 30 July this year.

And I think that one of the things that are very interesting in this regard, again reflecting the enthusiasm of the people for this electoral democratic process, is the number of candidates. For instance, you have 33 presidential candidates and about 280 political parties. But, again, it's a reflection, I believe, of that enthusiasm.

So I would say that indeed progress has been made towards achieving lasting peace in the DRC. Of course, there are other challenges with regard to this, not just the political challenges and the establishment of a democratic system. These are matters that relate to addressing the socioeconomic challenges in the country.

In that context the government has indeed adopted an economic programme that seeks to rebuild the economy's infrastructure and institutions to stabilise the microeconomic situation, to revive growth and investment in the social sectors, to reduce widespread poverty and to combat corruption, both in the government and in the handling of the natural resources.

There may be other campaigns that have been launched in the country, for instance the anticorruption Operation Clean Hands that was launched in October 2005, which resulted in the arrest of a number of high-ranking government officials some of whom were involved in the mismanagement of tax revenues between 2001 and 2005.

We are very deeply involved in these processes in the Congo. Our Department of Defence, the National Defence Force, the Police Service, Home Affairs, Public Service and Administration, the Independent Electoral Commission, all of them are involved in assisting the DRC to progress towards the elections and that country's reconstruction in the future.

Clearly, the DRC is a critically important part of what has to happen on our continent as we talk about the process of the renewal of Africa, because of its size, its location and its capacities. Therefore we do believe that it is critically important for the future of the continent, not just the Congo, that these Congolese processes succeed. Thanks, Madam Chairperson.

Ms K R MAGAU: Madam Chair, I thank the hon President for the reply. I must say that as South Africans we welcome and appreciate the work that we are doing in stabilising Africa through peaceful negotiations. May I just ask the President whether apart from our initiatives in the DRC and elsewhere in Africa, where we are charged with facilitating peace processes, are there any other interventions by other governments of the world, through the United Nations, aimed at promoting democracy, be it in the DRC or anywhere in Africa, and ensuring that we create a peaceful world? Thank you.

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Yes, of course, Madam Chairperson. In the DRC we work very closely with the United Nations. As you know, the United Nations has got a very big deployment of peacekeepers and other interventions that it is making. It is also very deeply involved with regard to assisting in terms of organising the forthcoming elections. We also work very closely with Monuc and other structures of the United Nations in that regard.

Belgium has also been keenly interested in supporting these processes of change in the DRC. Therefore we work closely with them as well.

As I've mentioned, the National Defence Force is involved in training various armed groups in the Congo and participating in the process of the formation of integrated brigades. In that regard we work, again, closely both with the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, which are supporting us with regard to that.

There are also the United States, France and others. So yes, indeed, there are many players in this process and we try to co-operate as much as we can with all of them because all of us are pursuing these common objectives.

I think that would also be true of other interventions that we have to make, whether it's in Cote'd Ivoire, or Sudan, or the Comores or elsewhere. So yes, indeed, there are others that help in this process. We do hope that the rest of the world will continue to remain engaged in this challenge to ensure that there is peace, stability and democracy on our continent. Thanks, Madam Chairperson.

Moulana M R SAYEDALI-SHAH: Madam Chairperson, hon President, the role of countries neighbouring the DRC, to the east, particularly Rwanda and Uganda, merit a much closer and critical look. Both these countries were directly involved in the DRC and still continue to exert significant influence over the evolving situation there. They were and still are supporting various factions and political parties even in the DRC in an effort to maintain influence in the country and to continue to benefit from its natural resources. This clearly undermines the peace process and all our efforts there.

This important factor must be recognised and subsequently addressed. Mr President, my question is: What plans do you have in place to get the international community and all member states to address the situation in a firm and forthright manner?

Secondly, what corrective or even punitive measures are put in place to deal with defaulters or intransigent role-players who are signatories to the relevant AU protocols and peace treaties, and who continue to undermine the peace process? Thank you.

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Well, Madam Chaiperson, I think the hon member knows things about the current activities in Rwanda and Uganda with regard to the DRC that I don't know. [Laughter.]

We've been working with Rwanda, Uganda and the Congo for very many years now, even before the old man, Kabila, who was unfortunately assassinated, reached Kinshasa during that particular military offensive. So we've been working with Rwanda and Uganda for a very long time and continue to do so now.

The original agreement was negotiated and signed in Lusaka, arising out of the conflict that had taken place when both Uganda and Rwanda had indeed gone into the Congo. We had to do a lot of shuttling among all of these countries, including Rwanda and Uganda, to persuade them to come to an agreement, which fortunately they did, and we've been working with them ever since.

The hon member may be aware that I was in Uganda last week, and one of the things we discussed was a request from the government of Uganda for South Africa to join a number of countries handle a new problem that has arisen, which is the movement of units of the Lords Resistance Army of Uganda, the LRA, from Sudan into the Congo. This is something that needs to be dealt with. Indeed, certainly the Ugandan government took the view that though you now have these units of the Lords Resistance Army that are attacking Uganda from the Congo, it would be incorrect for Uganda to then invade the Congo to deal with that matter, but that the matter had to be dealt with differently. That is the reason they asked us to join this group of countries in order to be able to manage this situation between them and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

We maintain similar relationships with the DRC and Rwanda, and I'd like to assure the hon member that there is nothing that Rwanda and Uganda are doing now that is intended or actually results in subverting or compromising the transitional process in the DRC. And, certainly, in all of the regular contacts I've had with President Joseph Kabila of the DRC, he hasn't given me a report about these two countries that the hon member has just given. I think the situation is a bit different from what the hon member must have read in some newspaper. Thanks, Madam Chairperson.

Mr M SWART: Hon President, we can be truly very proud of the involvement of our Defence Force and other state institutions in the DRC. Yesterday we received a full briefing, however, by the electoral commission, which is tasked with assisting in the DRC elections, as you pointed out. I understand that the ballot papers are also being printed in South Africa for the DRC.

However, an issue was raised in relation to the electoral commission being asked to assist in the DRC and the continent, and the strain that this places upon their budgetary resources. Would you agree, hon President, that whilst we welcome and are proud of the electoral commission assisting in the DRC and other African states, we need to be mindful of the strain this places upon it and ensure that donor organisations make timeous payments, according to their pledges, to prevent budgetary and capacity problems? Thank you.

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Madam Chairperson, this is a very important matter. Indeed our electoral commission here has been working with the Congolese electoral commission for some time now, and there are people from the IEC who have been working in the Congo for some time now.

The Congolese IEC has requested of our IEC - they made this request two or three months back - to deploy there an additional 300 people. So we have agreed to that, because of the critical importance of these elections and the need to make sure that the Congo does indeed move to re-establish democracy in the country. Yes, the IEC has indeed discussed the budget implications of that kind of deployment with government, and I'm quite certain that government will do whatever is necessary to make sure that the IEC is able to discharge its responsibilities.

You were correct about the printing of the ballot papers. We have the necessary understanding with the United Nations with regard to the financing, and so on, in support of the elections in the Congo. I would imagine that there is nobody who would contribute to a failure of the democratic process in the Congo simply because they didn't provide the necessary resources. Certainly, from the point of view of the South African government, we will do what is necessary to make sure that our IEC discharges its responsibilities properly. Thanks, Chairperson.

The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Ms C-S Botha): There is still an opportunity for one more question. Hon Turok, I can now make up for, once before, not having allowed you an opportunity.

Prof B TUROK: Thank you, Chair, but I do not ask frivolous questions. [Interjections.]

Quick Links

Disclaimer | Contact Us | HomeLast Updated: 23 May, 2006 10:43 AM
This site is best viewed using 800 x 600 resolution with Internet Explorer 5.0, Netscape Communicator 4.5 or higher.
2003 Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of South Africa